The bar was dank. It wasn't a place I normally went. Being drawn to it was odd, but I am someone who was used to odd, so really, it was normal. Man, I wish I was a bit more normal.
Walking in, I saw him slumped over the oak, whiskey in hand. He looked exhausted, but that made two of us. It had been close to a week since I last had a good nights' sleep. My sister Serra was the sleeper in our family and that's where she was, while I was in this dingy, wet-dog smelling bar. I was the insomniac with the busy brain.
I approached the bartender with more confidence than he was used to. He smiled, "What can I get you?"
I glanced sidelong at the beautiful man resting on his elbows, now just mere feet from me. I answered, "Whiskey, please," and the bartender nodded and turned to pour my drink. Finally, I had his attention.
"Can I get you a refill?" I asked, doing my best to do what I had always been trained to do. Observe, categorize. Manipulate, if necessary.
Finally, he turned, locking his green flecked eyes with mine. He did the once-over that I expected, but he hesitated at the blade on my hip, concealed beneath my coat, almost like he sensed it, rather than actually saw it.
His voice was gruff when he answered. "I was about to head home. Try to get some sleep. Maybe tonight's the night I get my four hours."
No. Engage. Stay. I smiled coyly, saying, "That's the story of my life. It's been about a week since I got even that. How long has it been for you?"
He raised his eyebrows, but I could see the pain behind his locked jaw. Nodding, he agreed, "About the same."
My whiskey glass glided towards me, slightly sloshing over the edge of the glass as I caught it. I took a napkin from the pile and set the glass on top and licked the spill off my hand. "Look at that. We have something in common already."
He smelled like leather and the whiskey he drank. There was also a bit of mechanic on him; the grease was just recognizable. He was definitely the reason I had been drawn to the bar. Seemingly giving in, he shrugged and smiled. Nodding to the bartender, he held up a finger. "One more, please," he said quietly.
I smiled at him and took a drink of my own. The bartender refilled his glass and we both listened to the ice swirl in the amber liquid. Quietly, he asked, "What's with the blade?"
I was surprised. No one ever asks me, even if they blatantly see it. I looked at him, taking my glass as I turned myself towards him. He was warm. Through my jeans, I could feel his heat on my legs. Taking a breath and raising my eyebrows, I finally answered in the broadest way possible. "Someone has to take care of the things that go bump in the night."
Holding my gaze for longer than he needed to, I could feel electricity of attraction trickle down my spine. A moment passed between us and I knew he knew that I was a hunter. After what seemed like a lifetime, he turned and held out his hand. "Dean Winchester."
At long last, I had him and I could finally see what I had been dreaming about in clear reality now that I could finally touch him. I extended my own hand and took his, "Grace Browning."
The connection was immediate. I saw hundreds of flashes all at once: a woman on the ceiling on fire, two men fighting vampires, a bearded man shaking hands with Dean, Dean staring at a symbol on his forearm, his own bloody arms holding a blade, a tall man holding an Asian man on the floor, Dean looking down at the ties holding his arms to a chair in the middle of a Devil's Trap. The images kept coming while I held his hand. Tall man with tie. Black Chevy Impala. Books. Blood. Guns.
I gasped and pulled my hand away. I knew what I saw happened in less than three seconds or so, but never in my life, have I ever been met with so many scenes. The emotion behind the vision was staggering and I knew the pain that Dean carried with him was more than any man ever should. Tears welled in my eyes unexpectedly and I took a drink and looked away.
Dean was on to me. I felt his gaze on the side of my face. "What are you?"
There it was: proof he was a hunter as well. Only hunters ever asked the question phrased that way. I was ready for it, but at the same time, I was still reeling from the vision. "I'm not anything."
"You're something. You saw something. What did you see?" He moved closer to emphasize that it wasn't a question, but more of a demand.
The story I told was always the same: The visions began when I was fourteen. I would touch people and their lives would be spread out for me like an incredibly fast slide show. Most of the time, their lives were simple: jobs, cars, kids, but every once and a while, I would catch an affair or secret money spending habit, and even more rarely, I would see something that hadn't happened yet. I shook my head, still avoiding his stare. I couldn't look him in the eye after the pain I saw. "It's nice to meet you, Dean Winchester." The silence filled the space between us but he backed down ever so slightly. "How long have you been a hunter?"
The question seemed to take him by surprise. "Is that what you saw?"
Dean swirled his glass, staring at me. "Too long," he answered, taking another drink. His lips turned upwards, ever so slightly revealing the faintest of dimpled smiles. "What gave it away?"
I grinned back as the tension released. "The Desert Eagle in your shoulder holster," I replied, gesturing to the slight bulge on his chest. He looked down, closing his leather coat tighter against himself. "I have one myself and the kick alone is enough to take out the worst of the worst.
"Why do you think I carry it?"
We spent the next three hours exchanging stories about varying monsters that we hunted. Vamps and Djinn topped the list, each of us having similar stories. The next thing we knew, the barkeep was approaching us with the bill in a mason jar. "Last call, kids."
"Sonofabitch, how long have we been here?" Dean glanced at his watch and smiled up at me. The sadness was still etched in his face, but the smile lit up his green eyes; it was genuine.
"Longer than I planned on being in this dive, that's for sure," I said, matching his smile. I watched him pull out his wallet and throw the cash into the glass jar. "Thanks for the drinks."
He hesitated on his barstool long enough that I could tell that he was battling with whether or not to take me home. Dean stood, adjusting his jacket, and putting his wallet back in his back pocket. "You're welcome, Gracie."
"The only person that calls me 'Gracie' is my little sister."
"Well, you can add me to the list," he replied, his voice husky and low. Dean leaned on the bar, closer than he needed to be.
I stared up at his face, searching his green eyes for his intentions. "You planning on calling me?" I asked, my heart in my throat as I struggled to stay in complete control. Dean was too close, too warm. I had never been so attracted, so quickly.
"If it's alright with you."
My face flushed as I looked away and smiled again nervously. Normally, I was the one that was so confident, so secure around men. It's how I survived as long as I had. My mind raced with sudden ideas of our future together, and I couldn't help shaking my head at the fact that the only reason I had sought Dean out in the first place was so that I could have a full night's sleep and my brain would stop obsessing, but now, I could see us as a couple. We could be ourselves as hunters without the secrecy. I could eventually be open with my abilities and that changed everything. I so wanted him to call me.
Ugh, I've become a seventeen-year-old girl.
I hesitated, fighting the urge to grab his hand, pull him out the door, and run away together. "You're not going to call me. You're probably only in town to get the rougarou." Dean smiled, shrugging, and urged me forward on pushing him away. "You're off the hook because me and Serra got it yesterday."
"Serra is your little sister that calls you 'Gracie'?" He smiled again. I doubted he's smiled this much in months, with all the horror I saw.
I nodded. "Yeah, we can't have that kind of thing wandering around in our town."
He stepped forward and was closer to me than I was ready for. The heat rolled off of him in waves. Dean Winchester was intoxicating. He was probably intoxicated as well, but I wanted to lean towards him to close the gap between our faces. Every fiber of me wanted him closer. I took an unintentional step forward and he leaned in, but stopped, eyelashes away from contact.
The breath caught in my throat in disappointment and I realized suddenly why he stopped. Dean was reliving the last time we touched and I chastised myself for gasping and pulling away involuntarily. Still close, he exhaled. Sweet with whiskey, his breath reached my face in a whisper, "What did you see?"
I could play this game too. Inhaling his scent and warmth, I smiled. "Call me."
I tiptoed upstairs and shut the bathroom door as quietly as I could. Serra would still probably hear me, but at least she would keep her interrogation for the morning. Besides, I was home alone. Dean and I parted ways at the corner down the street after taking my number and storing it in his phone. Immediately, he had texted me, "Tag."
I returned the text when I walked in my front door; "You're it."
Running the shower and standing under the hot water, I thought about the memories and images I had seen while touching Dean. I understood the vamps and the fighting. The blood and the guns were understandable as well, but him being tied to a chair and in a Devil's Trap worried me. The symbol on his arm was something I had never seen before; especially considering it wasn't a tattoo. It had been burned into his skin.
I wrapped my hair in the towel and rinsed the whiskey out of my mouth. I picked up my phone to plug it in and saw another text: "Get more than four."
I smiled as I turned out my light.
Dean watched Grace walk up to her door and check her phone. She had seen his text; he got a response when she shut the door behind her. "You're it."
Dean lingered for a bit, watching lights turn off throughout the house, thinking about how she must be heading to bed. He hoped that she would get some sleep. Running over their conversations in his head, he considered the fact that she seemed to be a psychic by touch; something he had never witnessed before. Dean had only known two genuine psychics in his life as a hunter and one of them was dead because of him. There were so many questions he wanted to ask Grace, but he knew he would have to bide his time. Shaking his head, he rubbed his neck and made his way back to the Impala. Pressing his lips together, he knew Bobby would have had some answers. That man knew everything.
He made a mental note to begin research without Sammy in the Men of Letters library for references to a psychic like that. Shaking his head, Dean doubted they would be any use. The Mark of Cain was still etched into his arm and The Men of Letters had gotten him no closer to finding a cure.
The Mark hurt Dean most days now, aching during the most mundane of activities. Drinking whiskey had even begun to be a pain. Working on his car seemed to be the best therapy thus far; the pain dulled long enough to give him some well-deserved reprieve, even if it got him grease under his fingernails. Gracie didn't seem to mind, he thought, smiling.
Taking out his phone, he sent one more message: "Get more than four."
Watching the rest of the lights turn off as she walked through the house, Dean threw Baby in drive and peeled out towards the BatCave.
"Where have you been?" Sammy greeted Dean when he walked through the door, irritation dripping through his voice.
"Good to see you, too," Dean replied, the edge returning in his.
Sam stared at Dean as he threw his keys on the table. They skidded across and tapped the light on top of the table and they stood, silent. Sam raised his eyebrows, still waiting for an answer from Dean and, for a few seconds, Dean considered hitting him.
Dean took another breath, calming down, breathing Grace; She lingered the same way a good shot of bourbon did. They hadn't touched again, not because Dean didn't want to, shit, how I wanted to touch her, he thought, but his fists clenched and relaxed, reminding himself that Sam was just concerned. The Mark had changed both of the Winchester brothers.
"I went to a bar," he finally said. "I drank for awhile and now I'm here," Dean finished, leaving out the details of his tryst. Sammy didn't say anything. He just ran a hand through his too-long hair and let out a puff of air, like he always did when he wanted to say something. "What, Sam?" Dean continued, irritated.
"If the Mark is affecting you as badly as I think it is, you need to talk about it. We need to figure this out, Dean." He walked to his stack of research he had stashed since Dean's stint as a demon. "How long has it been since you slept?"
Dean shrugged, realizing that he had been talking about The Mark too often. He was worrying his baby brother. "I'm fine, Sam. Let it go."
"No, Dean. I'm not going to let this go. You're in pain, you're edgy and you're never sleeping. One of these days, you're going to snap and you're going to kill someone you don't want to." Sam was scared and it was because of something Dean had done. The guilt rattled through Dean's brain, knowing that it was too much to burden Sammy with.
Normalcy is something that Dean had always tried to give his little brother, no matter where their father had dragged them. Dean always made sure they were enrolled in school, that Sammy was part of Dean's activities and that Sam was fed and felt loved each day. Bobby did his best to fill in the missing gaps, but in reality, the boys had only ever depended on each other. Dean was like more like a father to Sam than a brother, and having Sam worry about Dean just wasn't right as far as the elder was concerned.
"Sammy, I'm coping. Just," a breath to take in Grace again, "just let me cope."
"Is whiskey part of coping?"
"Yes, but this time it was conversation, too," Dean shot back, realizing too late that the battery of questions would follow.
Sammy's entire demeanor changed. "Conversation? With who?" he asked; one question right after another. Dean had already turned away from Sam, but could feel Sam's eyes on his back. Conversation was not one of Dean's strong suits, so hearing that he had engaged in enough sentences to qualify it as a conversation was surprising to Sam.
He sighed, rolling his eyes, "I met a girl."
Dean turned back to Sam to see if it was sarcasm or genuine. His face was surprised, softened. Smiling a bit, Dean replied, "Yeah, a girl. She was sweet."
Dean knew why Sammy was acting the way he was. Two days ago, Dean woke up sweaty and pissed, looking for anything to maim or destroy. He ended up pushing over a bookcase that Sam had organized just days before. The Mark made him crazy; it took over and most of the time and it was getting harder and harder to get him back. The longer that Dean had The Mark, the harder, he feared, it would be to get back to being completely himself. Bringing a girl into the picture, well…that wasn't the smartest thing that he could do. Dean could easily kill her if he slipped into one of his rages, and Sam's voice told Dean that he realized it at well.
"I know, Sam. I know," Dean sighed, walking away from Sam and heading to his room. Dean could hear Sammy's footsteps echoing down the hall. Sam wasn't done.
He puffed air at Dean again, at a loss of what to say. Knowing Sam didn't want to make him angry, Dean took his silence for the opportunity to make his case about Grace. "She's different, Sam. Not just some one night hook up." Dean spread his hands, "Look around, man. She ain't here. We talked. I bought her a couple of drinks, she went home alone."
"You called her 'sweet', Dean. You don't call anyone 'sweet.'"
Dean nodded, admitting the truth that Sam spoke, "Yeah, I know." There was hesitation in Dean's posture, something that was lingering in his mind that he was resistant to telling Sam. He caught on quickly.
"What aren't you telling me?" Sam's eyebrows went up, past his goofy hairline and Sam gave him that kicked-puppy look that always gets him what he wants.
Dean rolled his head back, finally giving in, but was readying himself for Sam's reaction. "She's a hunter," he started, locking his jaw and continuing with a grimace. "And I'm pretty sure she's some sort of psychic."
The puff of air he blew out ruffled his too-long bangs. He was already shaking his head, doubtful of Dean's ability to clearly make decisions. "She's a psychic? A genuine psychic? How do you know, Dean? Why was she in the bar? How can you trust someone that you just met if you think she's a psychic?"
"Dude, Sam, slow down. She and I just happened to be in the same bar at the same time. The only reason I think she's a psychic is because when we shook hands, she just…she wasn't there for about three seconds. Then all of the sudden, she's pulling away from me and her eyes are filling with tears."
Dean was getting frustrated with him. "No, Sam." Dean paced around, looking for something else to drink. Two bottles stood on the bar, but both were empty. "She didn't cry. She…She reacted to something she saw. I think when she touched me, she saw something. We connected somehow and she reacted."
Sammy took a step back and tilted his head, suspicious. "So what did she see?"
Dean pictured Gracie's face when she smiled and answered Dean's voice, asking the same question. Call me. Shaking it off, Dean came back to the present, tilting his head. "I don't know, Sammy. She wouldn't tell me yet."
"She got a name?"
Finally, Dean took a deep breath and the corners of his lips tugged into a grin, showing the dimple in his left cheek. "Grace," he answered, "Grace Browning."
There is nothing better than getting seven solid hours of sleep after a week of naps. I woke up, still groggy, but completely at ease. Seeking out the people in the visions that I have usually eases my anxiety in a way that I can't explain, but more often than not, it's impossible to find them as easily as I found Dean. In the rare case that I can seek out my subjects, my brain quiets for long enough to get my sanity back and it's usually at least a month or two before I have another vision of something new. Sitting up in bed, I could hear Serra downstairs banging around, probably making breakfast. It was Sunday after all.
I grabbed my phone off the charger and headed downstairs.
"You slept," my sister greeted me, smiling, with a whisk in her hands.
"I did." Smiling to myself, remembering Dean's face, I sat and watched her mill about the kitchen.
Serra turned and waggled her eyebrows at me, pushing her long brown hair behind her ears. She was whipping eggs. "Where did you find him?"
I grimaced, mildly embarrassed. "After Hours."
She made a face. "That skuzzy bar down the street? What, is he homeless?"
I laughed, shaking my head and taking the cup of coffee she handed me. Serra was, if nothing else, brutally honest. "No, he's not homeless, not in your definition of the word at least." I hesitated, pressing my lips together. I could picture the reaction that Serra was about to have. Taking a deep breath, I sighed. "He's a hunter."
Serra set the bowl down to turn and stare. "Is that why the pull was so strong?"
I shrugged. Honestly, I figured the pull to Dean was as strong as it was because we were attracted to each other. My brain had a certain kind of radar that allowed me to find people that belonged in my circles. I found most of my best friends that way. I've found other hunters to help with cases through my dreams and visions. I've gotten out of quite a few problems because of my abilities. Dean Winchester seemed to be no exception.
"Is he everything you dreamed of and more?" She was teasing now. The last time I found a boyfriend, he ended up being a Fed and I really couldn't have someone like that around. He knew too much and not enough. I was a kindergarten teacher by day, but killed things at night. It was a very strange yin/yang situation.
"We'll just have to see," I said as Dean's brain flashed through my head again along with that symbol on his arm. I grabbed a piece of paper and sketched out what I had seen. "Have you seen this before?"
Serra walked toward me and evaluated. "I don't think so. Where did you see it?"
"On his arm."
"Tattoo?" she asked, turning back to the stove.
"No," I shook my head, still staring at the sketch. "It was burned in." I changed subjects completely and stared up at my sister. "Midterms are coming up, right?" Standing near her, I opened the cupboard and began bringing plates down for breakfast. "You're almost on Winter Break."
"Yeah, I have Tuesday and Thursday mid-terms this week and Monday, Wednesday, Friday's next week." She took a bite. "The first set should be easy, but I'm not so sure about the second. The rougarou threw off my study schedule."
"I told you that you should have stayed home."
Serra was already shaking her head. "Not with your head not in the game. You hadn't slept in days and I wasn't taking any chances with you out there alone. I can make up mid-terms, but I can't bring you back from the fucking dead."
I had fallen asleep again. Waking up to Wheel of Fortune blaring on the television, I saw that Serra was curled up on the couch with books spread across her lap and the coffee table. She had furrowed brows and was writing furiously on the pad of paper that topped her pile of books.
Serra was trying so hard to get through school. We had really cut back on hunting lately, trying harder and harder for a normal life and it was nice not worrying about coming back alive. I didn't have to call a sub for my classroom when we didn't make it home that night. We were doing our best to keep ourselves alive and functional. The rougarou the other night was only because we had decided that anything suspicious in our own hometown had to be taken care of and it was. Our town was once again safe.
Our parents had tried to lead normal lives. We lived in the house our parents bought years ago, but being hunters had caught up. Our mom had been killed years ago and Dad had bitten off more than he could chew with a demon. We weren't big time and we suffered losses. In the last two decades or so, everyone that had been important to us had died. Serra and I realized how dangerous it was to try to emulate our parents and had bowed out of that world as much as we could. We had each other and we were helping people in other ways. I had become a teacher and Serra was on her way to becoming a microbiologist and was fascinated how the human body developed (and how monsters had come out into the world). She eventually wanted to work with the babies in the NICU. She had a plan.
Then, about a week ago, I started dreaming about Dean Winchester. I didn't remember ever seeing his face before, but my brain anticipated our eventual interaction. He felt familiar to me already, but I didn't know if that was because we had crossed paths another time in our lives or because the visions had been so vivid. My abilities had developed over the last decade and I finally figured out that the visions and dreams I have are preparing me for something that's coming, Dean being one of them. I've had many of them in the past, including our father's ultimate demise, and I knew I could trust myself to see the future. Dean became a beacon that I was drawn to—seeing someone's face in your head for a week makes your curiosity pique. The night before last, I dreamed of Dean and the Tall Guy come in to town looking for the rougarou. I saw him walk into the bar and I saw that he would be staying for awhile, drowning his sorrows. Like a magnet, I headed out that night to find him; to make the connection I would need in order to sate my brain.
I never anticipated that he would be a hunter. Now there were so many variables. He knew that I had seen into what he was thinking and I knew that he wouldn't allow me to get away with not telling him what I saw. Dating a hunter was a bad idea. I didn't want to be drawn back into that world, but thinking about him is something I kept catching myself doing. Serra noticed that I was awake and without looking up, she said, "Glad to see you're sleeping again."
I nodded slowly, smiling at her. "Me too," I said, stretching and as soon as I started to get up my phone buzzed next to me. Reaching out, I saw the number flash across the screen and realized that it was Dean. I hadn't saved his number in my phone, never predicting that he would actually call. I rolled forward and held the phone up. "Serra. He's calling me. He's calling me right now."
She finally looked up and smiled. "Aw. You have a boyfriend!"
My phone continued to vibrate in my hand. I didn't know what to do. Dean was a hunter but I didn't want to be with a hunter. I didn't want to be attached to someone I could lose, but I realized that I wanted him. Before I knew what I was doing, my thumb slid to unlock my phone. "Hello?"
"What did you see?" His voice was deeper than I remembered. It was rough and from the sound of it, he still hadn't slept. I could hear him smile into the receiver and I knew that he was hooked, too.
"You called," I said, trying to stay as calm as I could, hating myself for being breathless. Get a grip.
"I did. I couldn't help myself."
I shook my head as I stood up from my chair. I was still groggy from catching up on my sleep. I padded to the kitchen and sat on the barstool. "Why didn't you sleep?"
Dean hesitated. "Is it that obvious?"
"You're a little slurry." I pressed my lips together, tilting my head. "Unless you're still drunk from last night."
"I wish I was." He was quiet. We had that awkward first-phone-call feeling but finally, he spoke, "Do you like pie?"
I laughed at the absurdity of the question. Grinning, I answered, "Of course I like pie, but I'm very particular. I can't stand pecan pie."
"Pecan is an American treasure. I don't know if we're going to last."
"That just means there's more for you," I responded automatically, smiling into the phone. I could tell that the banter was what he wanted.
He chuckled quietly and took a breath, my heart in my throat as I waited. Dean said, "I'll be there in about ten minutes."
"On one condition," I replied, not missing a beat.
I looked down at my outfit and shook my head. I was wearing the most comfortable pants I owned and they were the ugliest pair of sweats in the world. I was also wearing a college sweatshirt with holes in the sleeves where I tried to push my thumbs through the seams. "I don't have to change my clothes and you don't judge me for wearing ugly red sweatpants."
Dean laughed again, a wonderfully warm sound that made me smile. "I'll be there in ten," he said again and hung up.
I set down my phone, smiling. I walked upstairs to find a hair tie and yelled to Serra, "Put some pants on! He'll be here in ten minutes to pick me up."
"I hope you're going upstairs to change!"
"Nope," I replied quietly, not caring if she couldn't hear. "I'm wearing the red sweats." I dug through the bathroom drawer, still looking for a hair tie and Serra followed me into the doorway. I glanced at her, raising my eyebrows, "You need to put some pants on."
"You don't think he'll like my ninja turtle undies?" She grinned at me and sauntered away, digging through my pajama pants. "Where are your monkey pants? I like your monkey pants." I shrugged, unwilling to share my jammies. "Come on, Gracie," she said, whining, "I love those pants."
I held them up out of the laundry basket on the ground as the bathroom disappeared and I was shoved into a dark alley, Dean pushing me up against a wall and pulling his Colt. It was cold and it had been raining, there were puddles all around and water dripped into my hair. Dean gestured to be quiet and pulled me behind him. He moved with me back towards a black Chevy and he handed off the keys. "Take the car and head home. We'll follow."
The monkey pants landed on the carpet as I came back. Serra was in midsentence about the monkey pants that I dropped on the ground. "…should have gotten my own but you got the only ones in my…" Serra faded away as she met my gaze. "What," she said, realizing I experienced a vision, "what did you see?"
I was already shaking my head. I was sweaty, nervous; on alert. I never have another vision so close to my last and rarely do I have them when I'm awake. I avoided her question, barely able to speak. Coming back from a vision usually messes with my voice…it takes me a minute to come back to being coherent. Finally, I managed to spit out, "why did I have another one already?"
"What did you see, Grace?" my sister repeated, getting closer to my face, concern etched into her eyes.
I flashed back to the scene, trying to piece together the sentences: "There was an alley. It had been raining. There was water everywhere. Dean was there…he pulled me against a wall and drew his gun. He gave me the keys to his car and told me to go home and that he would follow behind me." I looked at Serra. "What does this mean? Why did I see again so soon?"
"I don't know. Maybe it's continuing the first vision you had? Maybe because you're supposed to be with him because you can't protect yourself from something that's out there. You said he was a hunter." The doorbell rang. Dean must be on time. "I'll get it. Give you a minute to get your shit together." She picked the monkey pants up from the floor and pulled them on. I heard her go down the steps and I sat on the floor.
I didn't know what to do. I wasn't a hunter anymore, but that's exactly what it looked like we were doing. He had his gun out and we were on alert in a dark alley in the rain. I closed my eyes and tried to revisit: The alley, the smells and the shove up against the wall. In my mind's eye, I could see the worry on Dean's face, the sweat beading on his forehead. He didn't make eye contact with me, but held his ground around me, blocking the path of whatever was out there. His only thought was my safety.
We were joined. We were hunting and we were together. I was breathless thinking about it.
I could hear voices downstairs; Serra was small-talking Dean. I pulled myself from the floor and I put my hair up with the tie I found there. I stared into the mirror, wiping my face with a towel, and listened to the conversation.
"Dean?" Serra shut the front door after Dean and turned to look at him. "Hi, I'm Serra, Grace's sister. It's nice to meet you." She reached to shake his hand and when he didn't immediately reciprocate, she smiled. "I'm not like Grace." Dean grimaced and apologized. "Don't worry. She does it to everyone."
"Nice to meet you, Serra." Dean paused in the doorway and glanced around, taking in as much as he could. After his three-sixty, he hesitated on the look on Serra's face and asked, "Everything okay?"
She shook her head, "Don't worry about it. Grace'll be down in a sec." He didn't look away. His eyebrows furrowed and asked again. "Dean, really, it's okay. She'll be right down."
Not taking that for an answer, he turned; his impulse to head upstairs to see what was wrong. We made eye contact as I stood at the top of the steps. "Hi, Dean," I greeted, taking a quick breath. I had already forgotten the scruff on his square jaw and how I could see his soul peeking out from his green eyes. I looked away, finally beginning my walk down the flight of steps. "You're faster than you said you'd be."
He looked at his watch and smiled. "I drive fast."
The same worry that he had in my vision was still in the lines of his face. He looked older than he did last night; more drawn. The light in his eyes was dimmed, but he held my gaze, "What happened?"
I sighed, answering, "I'm gonna need some pie before we get into that." Serra shot a look at me. I could almost hear her thoughts when she raised her eyebrows at me, "You're going to tell him?" I nodded to her and shrugged. The trust I already placed in Dean was astonishing, considering the types of lives we led.
"Well, come on," Dean sighed, smiling weakly. "I wanna hear the entire story and they close at nine tonight, so we'd better get started." He held the door open for me and waited, his eyebrows lifting as he motioned to my pants, "I like your sweats."
I grinned back at him and shrugged. "I told you they're amazing." I grabbed my bag and my phone and glanced at Serra. She was concerned because we've never been separated right after one of my visions. Usually it takes me a few minutes to calm back down. At this point, I was improvising.
"I have my phone," I said, glancing back. Translation: in two hours, call me to make sure I'm not dead.
"Love you, Gracie."
"Love you back, Lucky."
I closed the door behind Dean and followed him down the front steps. He kept glancing back at me, concerned. We still hadn't touched since last night. "Lucky?" He asked, unlocking the passenger side.
"A nickname I gave her decades ago." His eyebrows rose, questioning. "Serra is short for Serendipity. We call her Serra because she cried as a kid when we used her real name. 'Lucky' stuck too."
The sleek, black Impala was exactly like it was in my dream. The vinyl was in good shape, the dash had all original parts and the squeak of the driver's door was right on pitch. The inside of the car smelled just like Dean and I sat, absorbing him through the familiarity. He got in, started the engine and looked at me. "You know, not just anyone gets to ride shotgun with me."
I smiled, my heart still pounding from my vision. "I don't doubt that." Impulsively, I wanted to reach out and touch him, just to get a feel of his emotions and memories, but I restrained, knowing the value of privacy. "Who usually rides shotgun?"
"My brother, Sam," he replied, turning the key in the ignition and we both listened to the engine of the Impala roar to life.
"Is he tall?" I asked before I could stop myself.
Dean smiled and replied, "Yeah. Too tall, if you ask me. It's annoying."
Shaking my head, I rolled my eyes. "You're just jealous that he's the taller one."
Dean seemed surprised at my effortless banter. "Yeah, well, I'm the badass," he said, pulling the gear shift into reverse. He glanced sidelong at me. "Why are you nervous and clammy? Are you worried about our pie date? Scared that you'll start to like pecan after today?"
"There's never going to be a time I like pecan pie." I answered simply. I rolled down the window for some fresh air. He was right, I was still a little shaken from the vision I had in the bathroom. I didn't want to be that girl, crazy already, after the first date.
"We'll just see about that. It's an American Treasure."
"You keep saying that," I said, pressing my lips together, trying not to smile.
We drove off, silent for awhile, Def Leppard banging away in the background. It took us no time at all to drive to Polly's Pies. Pulling into a parking spot in front of the restaurant, he turned off the motor and turned his body towards mine. Hesitating on his next move, he stared at his hands as he took a deep breath. I knew what was coming.
"You're a psychic," Dean accused quietly.
I rolled my eyes. I hated that term. "I don't even get pie first? What kind of date is this?"
Dean was serious. I knew that because he was a hunter, he had to classify me into a category. Monster or human, black or white, hot or cold; it's the way hunters worked. Every last one of them needed to filter me into a category to guarantee the rest of humanity's safety. I was used to it, but it was still annoying as hell.
"Dean. I'm no monster, if that's what you're worried about." I turned to face him and put my palms up, surrendering, "It's something I do, not something I am."
"What is it that you do, exactly?"
I took a deep breath, flashes of rain and alleys and guns went through my head. "When I touch someone, I get flashes of their life. My sister and I figured that on average, the information and images I get take about three seconds to absorb. When I touch you, your memories go through my head. They could be current, they could be from five years ago, and could change, depending on how many times I make contact with you. The first touch always has the most information." I watched Dean closely during my explanation. Surprisingly, he hadn't moved or changed his reaction. His face was still set, eyebrows furrowed and absorbing everything I had to say. I decided to simplify things. "When I touch you, for the first three seconds, I'm getting flashes of your thoughts and memories. Then I come back. Most people don't even notice that I'm gone."
"Serra says that I kind of glaze over for a couple seconds because I can't really be in two places at once." I broke eye contact and stared at my hands. I moved my fingers around, trying to find words that wouldn't make him push me out of his car and drive away, which, honestly, had happened before. "It's why I don't tell many people," I continued. "They just can't handle something so different."
The next thing I knew, Dean was reaching out for my hands. He was close to contact and he hesitated. "You see my memories."
"Do you ever see the future?"
I tilted my head, remembering the alley again. "Sometimes. It's rare that I get a vision in the middle of the day. Usually it's when I'm sleeping." I paused and took a shaky breath, trying to just get passed the vision I had in the bathroom. "If it's by touch, usually, it was because someone was thinking about what might happen later on down the line anyway, so it was already in their memories."
Dean made contact and I gasped, not ready for the connection. Me at the bar. Sam yelling about a bookcase. The Impala with the hood up, Dean holding a cup of coffee. A scarecrow. The Mark on Dean's arm. Sam handing Dean a beer and sitting near a lake. The visions kept coming and the smaller, more logical part of my brain was able to isolate the fact that Dean had made contact willingly. He had reached out his hand and closed the gap. It was something that had never happened to me before, except for Serra.
The vision ended and I came back to Dean holding my hand. I looked at him, eyebrows up, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He didn't release my hand, but instead, leaned towards me and hesitated. "Three seconds," he whispered, the sweetness of his breath reaching my face.
I nodded, a little breathless at his close proximity. I could see the flecks of gold in his eyes and had time to notice that he had freckles scattered across his nose. Slowly, Dean closed the gap and kissed me. There were no visions, no disappearing for three seconds. I was able to be present for the entire thing, the warmth from his face and the taste of his lips. It occurred to some small part of me that he had the presence of mind to touch me first so that we could both be there for the kiss.
No one had ever done that before.
He pulled away, looking into my eyes and seeing my soul. And fireworks. And elation. And every other chick flick movie feeling that had ever been or will ever be written about.
"It's pie time," Dean smiled and lingered near my face for a few seconds more, but then grabbed his keys out of the ignition and opened the door. I took a deep breath and reigned myself in. He waited for me on the sidewalk as I pulled myself together and grabbed my bag, slinging it over my shoulder, across my chest. I slammed the door and turned towards Dean, taking his hand as he extended it.
Flash. Werewolves. Vampires. Purgatory. First Blade. The Mark. A redhead with a biker jacket. Leviathans.
Dean had been standing, waiting for me to come back and then led me up the path towards the door of the restaurant. "Polly's Pies," he was saying, completely ignoring my vision this time. "Any pie under the sun and then some. Hot, cold, with your choice of hot beverage."
I was floored at the lack of surprise or interest from Dean. I kept waiting for the anger or the surprise and his mistrust of my knowing more than I should about him. It happened all the time. I was convinced it was why I had so few friends and the reason I couldn't hold onto a boyfriend. I knew too much. No one had any secrets. I was a mutant.
We sat across from each other at the booth the hostess showed us and he finally broke contact with my hand. The hostess asked, "Coffee? Tea? Water?"
"Coffee," we said in tandem. She disappeared and Dean looked back at me.
"Here comes the million dollar question," he began, rubbing his hands together, and then rubbing his face. "What do you see when you touch me?"
I took a deep breath, more prepared to talk about it to him than anyone else, besides Serra. He wasn't running away screaming, he wasn't leaving me at the restaurant. He hadn't batted an eye. It was as normal of a conversation as we could have.
"I've seen a lot. The first time, in the bar, there was a woman on fire on the ceiling," he gasped slightly at that, "There was another of Sam yelling, there was a man with a tie and a trench coat, you and Sam fighting with vampires, you bleeding, running, shooting." I hesitated at the look on his face; he was remembering it as I spoke. "And there was a flash of you tied to a chair in the middle of a Devil's Trap, with a mark burned into your arm."
"Son of a bitch," he said, running a hand through his hair and rolling his head from side to side. "That's a lot of information to take in."
"I'm sorry," I said, immediately regretting my decision to be up front and honest with him.
"Don't apologize. You can't help what you see." He still looked upset. "And the second time, in the car. What did you see then?"
I hesitated this time. There was no anger from him, no disapproval of my barging in on his privacy. He honestly just wanted to know, which was rare. I caved, wanting to tell him. "You and Sam yelling about a bookcase, I saw the mark on your arm again, which must mean it's on your mind a lot, Trench Coat Guy was back, Leviathans, a forest that you called Purgatory, a scarecrow, and you working on the Impala, holding a cup of coffee." I thought for a minute, "Oh, and you and Sam sitting in lawn chairs in front of a lake, drinking."
It must have been strange, having someone retell your life back in short sentences. I never really know what is happening in the visions I see, but I get enough through the emotions of the person that I am seeing through to understand how the scene is important in someone's life.
Dean rolled and unrolled the napkin on the table, lost in thought. He looked up at me and smiled another genuine smile. I relaxed slightly, reading him, and he began, "Can I send you images?"
He leaned forward, playful. "You know, project. If you touched me and I thought of something specific, would I be able to feed you the scene?"
I shook my head, shrugging. "I don't know. I haven't ever really tried."
"Shit, why not? That would be like having a direct line through to your brain. Think how helpful that would be in a hunt."
I smiled. He's taking it remarkably well. "I don't know. I don't really touch many people throughout my daily life, if I can help it. I have a hard enough time keeping my own thoughts straight, let alone someone else's, too. This ability is really a pain in the ass. Physical contact is a bitch."
Dean sat back as the waiter came up to us, notepad in hand. "Hi folks!" he chirped, his apron littered with little decorative buttons. "What can I get you?"
"I'm gonna need a slice of the pecan pie," Dean answered, his face smug, staring at me with an adorable little grin, showing off the dimple in his left cheek.
The waiter nodded and made a note on his pad. Looking up at Dean, he asked, "A la mode?"
"No. Don't ruin it."
Turning towards me, the waiter asked, "And you, sweetheart?" I tilted my head, smiling.
"Cherry," I answered, raising my eyebrows as Dean. "A la mode."
"Coming right up, you two."
Dean shot me a look and shook his head, mockingly disappointed. "You're ruining your pie. Pie needs to be pure: in its own element."
"You're a pie purest."
"Hell yes, I'm a pie purest." Dean was relaxed, shrugging out of his leather jacket and throwing it on the top of the booth. He planned to be here awhile. His flannel shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows and peeking out on his right hand side, was the Mark that I had seen so many times already.
I nodded towards his arm. "So are you going to explain the burn?"
He glanced down at his arm and shrugged. "Eventually, I'm sure I will, but I don't think it's quite fair that you know so much about me, and I don't know shit about you."
Nodding once more, I agreed. "That's fair," I said, and I started talking. I spoke as if I was talking to Serendipity: long, involved, detailed sentences about how we were originally from Portland and how my parents had been hunters as well, but they were long gone. He asked questions, here and there, getting a more accurate count of how I lived my life thus far. Dean never looked uninterested or bored. He ate his pie and sipped coffee, leaning back in the booth, just watching and listening to me. I painted the most accurate picture that I could of myself, not wanting to leave anything out.
"I never wanted to be a hunter," I was saying, "I wanted to live, but I ended up following mom and dad around until they both kicked it, mostly to watch after Serra. I would never admit it to her, but we were really good at what we did. In the end, we lost Dad and Emery in the same week and we bowed out as much as we could."
"Who is Emery?" Dean asked, taking another sip of his black coffee as the waiter came by to check on our mugs. I watched him refill both with fresh coffee and took a deep breath, remembering the pain from losing everyone so quickly.
"She was really special. Em was kind of our pseudo-mom after our real one died. Moved in after I graduated high school and took care of us." I took a sip of coffee, shaking myself loose of the memories that flooded my brain. Taking a deep breath to continue, I said, "Now both Serra and I are trying to stay as far out of the hunting world as we can. The rougarou the other day was just because it was too close to home."
"What does Serendipity want to do?"
I finished my pie and looked up at Dean. "She's in school right now for microbiology. She wants to work in the NICU of the Children's Hospital in town."
He nodded and took another sip of coffee. Smiling again, he asked, "And what do you want to do when you grow up?"
I grinned back. "I have been working on and off as a teacher for almost five years. For the first few years of my career, we were still hunting full time, so I couldn't commit to a regular classroom. I subbed when I could, but I had been in my own classroom now for almost three years," I said, speaking animatedly with my hands.
Dean's eyebrows shot up and he leaned forward. "You're a teacher?"
I nodded, confused at the look on his face.
"I'm hot for teacher?" He grinned.
"That's it," I said, giggling, catching the joke, "Van Halen would be proud."
My phone vibrated in my pocket. I knew it had to be Serra, checking up on me. Had it already been two hours? I looked down, grabbing my phone and looking up at Dean. "It's my sister."
"Checking on you?"
I could have lied, but decided against it. "Of course," I said slyly. "I'm with a strange man in a fast car. We could be hundreds of miles away by now."
Dean smiled and nodded, his eyebrows waggling playfully. "We could be. I could be ravaging you."
I giggled like a little girl as I answered my phone, "Hi, Serra."
"Oh good, you're alive," Serra said sarcastically, obviously smiling. "Have you fucked yet?"
"No." I said, glancing up at Dean, still staring at me with his eyebrows up.
"Is he sitting right there?" she asked, her mouth full of food.
Serra laughed and whispered into the phone. "So you can't give me any details, huh?"
"No." I looked down at the table to hide my grin. "Everything's great, Serra. I'll talk to you later, okay?"
"Bye, Serra." I hung up the phone and looked up at Dean. He was scraping the remainders of pie crust off the plate and licking them off his fork. I smiled at him and raised my eyebrows this time. "Do you two need some privacy?"
"Nah, I like it when you watch." He winked comically at me and glanced at our server. Dean waved for the check and tipped his head to the side.
"What are you considering?" I asked, seeing his head tilt. I took the last sip of coffee out of my cup and folded my hands on the table, "because now that Serra has checked in with me, it's your chance to kidnap me."
Dean smiled slowly, mischievously and replied, "Time for the ravaging." He glanced at the bill as the server set it down and threw twenty dollars on the table as he grabbed his jacket. Dean stood next to me and held out his hand. "Come on, let's get gone."
Knowing it was coming, I reached for his hand and immediately, the flashes started. Trench Coat Man. Bearded Man. Fire. Blade with teeth. Young Asian man. A church and blinding light. Devil's Trap. Books. Guns.
Dean waited patiently for my return. He smiled as soon as I came back. "It's a good thing you're only gone about three seconds or this would really get old."
I rolled my eyes and stood, grabbing my bag with my other hand. "Hilarious. You're not the one stuck with the visions from other people's brains."
Dean ran a hand through his hair and smiled again. He led me through the restaurant and to the Impala. Unlocking and opening the door for me, he threw his jacket onto the seat. Then he paused, hesitating on his next move.
Doubt was swirling in my mind. I knew, with Dean being a hunter, that I shouldn't be getting attached to him. He would be gone in a matter of hours, I was sure of it. This was just a date with someone who understood me completely, I thought sarcastically, a date with a very attractive, very muscular hunter with a hot car who would be leaving soon.
I shouldn't want to lean into him. I shouldn't be breathing in the leather and the faint gunpowder. I should be thanking him and asking him to take me home, but I couldn't. I couldn't look away from his freckled face or his green eyes.
He was close now. This time, it was my turn to close the space between us. I leaned towards him and reached up on my tiptoes, unable to help myself. I kissed him. It started slowly and relatively innocently, but then, I made the mistake of letting go of his hand and putting my arm around his shoulders to pull myself closer. It was all over.
Dean wrapped his arms around me, almost lifting me from the ground. We weren't in the parking lot of Polly's Pies anymore. We were alone, completely. Somewhere along the line, I dropped my bag into the car and Dean turned us so I was leaning up against the back door. I lost track of time.
Still pressed up against me, Dean smiled through our embrace and we finally came up for air. Dean rested his forehead on mine, not losing contact with me. He was almost breathless, "Let's get out of here."
"Dean," I started, shaking my head, "this—I don't know."
"What?" he said, still touching my face so that he wouldn't lose me in his subconscious once more.
I struggled to breathe, my heart pounding with anticipation. "You're leaving and I live here. This is stupid, if you're just going to leave, it's pointless—"
"Who said anything about me leaving?" Dean took my hand again and pulled his head back, looking at me, eyebrows furrowed. "I'm not going anywhere."
"But you came to town for the rougarou."
He smiled, "Well, yeah, but—"
I shook my head, breaking eye contact with him. "Then this is pointless. You're a hunter and you'll be gone by morning. I can't do that to myself."
Dean took a step back and cocked his head to the side, mockingly irritated. "Are you done?" he asked; his eyebrows up.
I was completely thrown. "What?"
Gesturing to the road, he continued. "I was trying to say that I live outside of town. The BatCave is only about ten minutes from here."
Confusion wrapped its way through my brain as I struggled to understand what he meant. Hardcore hunters like Dean didn't have homes. The Impala was probably the closest he had to one. I was used to his kind because I used to be one of them: nomadic, moving with the monsters from motel to skeezy motel. Finally, I asked, "The BatCave?"
Stepping back, Dean gestured to the car. "Come on, gorgeous. I'll show you." He kissed my hand and let go, walking around to his side of the car. We got in and he started the car. As we drove away, renewed hope shot through my mind. I didn't want the vision in the rainy alley to be the future, but at this point, all I wanted was Dean.
Turning to stare out the window, I listened as Dean flipped on the radio and as the clouds rolled in, my anxiety took hold and I watched the rain start to sprinkle down.
We drove for about ten minutes and finally, we turned onto a dirt road surrounded by trees. Dean slowed to a roll and shut off the engine. From the look of things, it was an abandoned warehouse. "This is it, isn't it," I said, turning to look at him. He raised his eyebrows in confusion. I continued sarcastically, "This is where Serra will find my body, right?"
He chuckled and shook his head. "Looks like hell, I know." He got out of the car and walked around to the hood as I followed suit, "but it's incredible inside. Sam's not gonna appreciate me bringing you here without cutting him in the loop, but he'll just have to get used to it."
I followed him down the steps, towards the below-ground entrance and did my best to stay calm. My brain ran wild with the school-girl over-think. Dean was excited, genuinely excited, and it rolled off of him in waves. It was hard to wrap my brain around our connection; we had only had one official date, and that included pie, not even an entire meal. At the same time, I already felt entwined in him, part of his very being. I had been with more than my share of men throughout my life, most of them I used for meals and a place to sleep, but Dean wasn't one of my marks. I wanted him purely based on attraction and it was strange to think that I might have finally found someone that understood me for who I was. He turned to make sure I was still right behind and he used an old, funky-looking key to open the door.
The inside was well lit and warm. He held the door open for me and I walked in, out of the rain. Waiting for him in the foyer, I took down the hood of my sweatshirt and looked around; breathing in the smell of old books and antiques. It was incredible. The ceiling was at least thirty feet high, made mostly of skylights, and the drops of rain spattered across the glass. The Tiffany lamps on the tables below us bathed the rest of the space with a warm, welcoming light. Dean took my hand and waited.
The flashes started immediately: my face was the first thing I saw, Dean's arms wrapped around me, then the Impala's dashboard, Dean flicking on the radio, my face again, the outside of the BatCave, and Dean taking my hand. As I came back, I gazed back up to Dean's face. He smiled down at me.
"What was that?" I asked, confused. Everything I had just seen was something that had happened only minutes before. It had never worked that way. "I don't understand."
"What did you see?"
"Us. The car. Me." I shook my head. "Stuff that just happened."
"I told you," Dean whispered, leaning close. He kissed me again, lightly on the lips, "It can be done. It's all the stuff I was thinking about. Projecting." He led me down the steps into the main living area. There were tables and chairs lined up like a library. Bookcases were everywhere, full of dusty, well-worn books. A cell phone was charging on one of the side tables and there, slumped in the corner armchair, was Sam, fast asleep.
"Don't wake him up, Dean." I held his arm back, "Just leave him."
Dean nodded and led me past the sleeping Sam. "He's not annoying when he's asleep," he said, tiptoeing passed his brother. We walked down the hall together, my excitement building. I was almost thirty-years-old, but I was giddy, feeling more and more like the sixteen-year-old kid I was when dating was new. We stopped at a closed door and he turned to look at me, a flash of nervousness crept across his face. I got the feeling that Dean was not used to feeling like this with other women.
"You aren't nervous, are you, Mr. Winchester?"
He grinned, the anxiety gone from his face. "Mr. Winchester? I like it. Authoritative." He leaned, running a finger across my forehead, brushing my hair out of my face. Dean's breath came faster as he held my face and kissed me deeply. I reached my arms around his shoulders again, pulling myself tighter against his body. Through the kiss, I smiled, almost giggling.
"Are you laughing at me?" he asked with a cocky little smirk plastered on his face.
I shook my head and said, "No. I look ridiculous, that's all." He looked confused, so I continued. "I'm wearing ugly red sweatpants and my college sweatshirt."
Dean stared at me from under heavy lids, licking his lips. "Not for much longer."
My breath caught in my throat as he turned the knob to his door. We pushed our way inside and he shut it behind him with his foot, turning the lock as he kissed me again. The look of hunger appeared in Dean's eyes as he walked us backwards. I fumbled with the buttons on his shirt and he cupped my face with his rough, calloused hands.
The small, more logical part of my brain was in high gear. He is a hunter and you wanted out. What are you doing?
I didn't care. Every part of me was all in. Finally, I got the last of the buttons undone from his shirt. I pulled it down his shoulders and dropped it behind him. Of course, he was wearing another layer: a black t-shirt was next. I pulled it up over his head and broke contact with him for long enough to drop it next to me. I stood back to admire him.
My logical Spock brain quieted after seeing him shirtless. Oh, never mind. Totally worth it. The scars across his shoulders and chest were faded, but visible. He had a tattoo on his chest: an anti-possession mark that I had seen once before in one of my dreams. A hand-shaped scar was over his left shoulder, burned into his flesh and the Mark of Cain was there, burned into his arm. There were stories there, stories that would wait, but yearning to be told.
Dean moved towards me again, ready to regain contact. He touched my face, the flashes starting immediately. Again, they were current: me unbuttoning his shirt. Kissing him. Me in my ridiculous sweatshirt and sweatpants. Him locking the door to his bedroom.
I came back to Dean leaning closer. He used one hand to pull my sweatshirt up and the other hand never left my bare hip. He didn't want to lose contact again. Maybe projecting took some concentration.
Pulling the sweatshirt off, he wrapped me into him, pressing his full, bare chest into me, carrying me across the room and laying me on the bed. The blanket covering the mattress was cold to the touch and I squirmed slightly as I got comfortable. He smiled at me and pulled away to stare at me.
At least I was wearing a nice bra. He traced my collarbone with his fingers, following a scar I got hunting with my family. There was another scar on my rib cage, below the lace of my bra. One of my tattoos showed, barely peeking above the waistband of my red sweatpants. He pulled it down slightly to see the rest of the sugar skull on my hip. Dean bent at the waist to kiss each mark, starting with my tattoo. He traced the line of my hips and rib cage with his lips, working his way up to my clavicle and neck. I was coming unglued.
I pulled his face to mine again and we were at it like teenagers. We pulled the rest of our clothes off, strewing them across the room. I tried his belt, but couldn't make my fingers move fast enough. He did the rest, shaking off his jeans and joining me on the bed. He was absolutely beautiful and I could hardly believe it was happening. Our breathing came fast, in gasps and kisses. I rolled so that I straddled him, looking down into his green-flecked eyes.
"Why me?" Dean asked; his voice husky and his warm hands on my bare hips. "Why did you choose me?"
"I didn't. You drew me in."
"You saw me." It wasn't a question…he finally understood that I had seen him many times in my dreams. I had to seek him out. My brain wanted this. The Universe wanted this. Finally, I realized that I wanted this—more than anything.
I nodded. I leaned over to kiss him again, my hands reaching for his face. We kissed harder, more passionately. He rolled me again, this time I found his warmth on the surface of the bed. I took his place and we embraced, my hands reaching for him any way I could. His five o'clock shadow was soft to the touch and his jaw was set, determined. This was it. There was no coming back from this moment. We both felt the weight of the situation and I nodded.
There was nothing but each other. The room disappeared. My brain emptied and only saw Dean's face. I'm sure I dug my nails into his shoulders, but it didn't matter to either one of us. As one, we made love as only experienced couples did—feeling every part of each other. We moved together, wrapped in each other's warmth. I had no idea how fast or slow time passed, but each minute I was with Dean, the better my life became.
The pillows on his bed ended up on the floor around us and the blankets became disheveled and tangled. My hair stuck to my back, the braid coming undone and wrapping us both in blonde. Dean held my gaze and pushed my hair behind my ears, caressing my neck and pulling me closer. The intensity was building and there was nothing stopping us from euphoria.
Hours had passed…at least I think they had. Dean's arm was draped around my hip and his face was nestled in the back of my neck. My hair had been contained again; woven into a braid before we had lain down together. His breath warmed the back of my neck as I came into consciousness. Without moving, I looked around at his room. It was the first time I had noticed anything else besides Dean. A sheet was covering us modestly, with our clothes surrounding us on the floor. Dean's bed was small—we were as close as we could be to each other. Momentarily, I wondered how much time had passed and if I should try and text Serra.
I replayed the last few hours in my head. Dean was everything I thought he would be. Caring, gentle, but passionate. In my years of experience, I had never had a man like Dean before; someone who knew everything there was to know about me and my "gift" and still wanted to be with me: a man that desired me as much as I him. I turned my head to gaze at a still-sleeping Dean. His hair had been pushed awkwardly against the pillow on one side and was sticking up in an adorable way. His face was flushed, still warm from our encounter. His face was almost perfectly symmetrical. He followed the Golden Ratio and the art student in me was enamored. He was flawless.
I had the feeling that he could sense me staring at him and stirred. He slid his arm up my body and rested his hand on my face. "Hiya, gorgeous," he whispered.
Smiling in return, I sighed contentedly. "Hey there, stranger," I replied.
I turned around to face him completely. Dean never lost contact on my face or body. He wanted me to stay present. Wrapping his arms around me, he grinned boyishly. "Oops," he said, making a face.
From the crook of his neck, I asked, "Oops?"
"When I picked you up for pie," he started. "I really only intended on getting pie."
"Oops," I repeated, smiling.
Dean kissed me again, slowly and methodically. We probably would have made love again, but there was a knock on his door.
"Dean?" A man's voice from the other side of the door asked, "How long have you been here?"
Dean sighed and answered, "Awhile, Sam. Didn't want to wake you."
"How'd your pie date go?" Sam continued, still standing outside the door.
Turning to me and smiling, Dean answered, "Pretty well, Sammy."
There was a pause from outside the bedroom and I raised my eyebrows. I giggled silently, waiting for Sam to move on but he didn't. "She's in there with you, isn't she?" It wasn't a question.
Dean nodded and smiled. He nudged my face playfully and I answered, "Hi, Sam!"
Another pause from outside the door, then: "I'm making hamburgers if you two are planning on coming up for air any time soon."
Dean chuckled quietly and listened as Sam's footsteps faded. "Caught in the act," he said, smiling. He kissed me again and sat up, finally breaking contact with me. "Food sounds good, right?" he asked. I nodded in return and watched him look around for his clothes. Silently, he padded over to his boxers and jeans and pulled them on. I sat up in bed, the heat immediately leaving with Dean. It was cold without my living hot-water bottle next to me.
"Why do you run so hot?" I asked Dean as he looked around for his shirt. He found my bra and panties and held them up. I smiled as he tossed them to me.
"Yeah, you're hot to the touch." I stood to put my clothes on, "I've never met someone that is as warm to the touch as you are."
I saw him glance at the Mark on his arm. "I don't know. I have a feeling that it has something to do with this son of a bitch."
I walked to his side and touched the Mark with my fingertips without thinking about it. Along with the flashes of visions that followed, electricity traveled up my arm, and I felt as though I could hear Dean's thoughts as well as my own. Dean raged with a toothed blade through a crowded room of people. The Trench Coat Man held Dean in place, Dean struggling to break free. Sam's face through a broken wooden door. Dean swinging an ax.
I broke contact and took and involuntary step backwards. Touching the Mark was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. Dean looked concerned. "What did you see?"
My eyes had filled with tears again. Pain swelled in my chest, unwilling to understand. Emotion was thick through Dean and he constantly kept it at bay. He was exhausted, not because he wasn't sleeping, but because of the Mark. It was trying to take over his body and control his every move.
"Gracie, what? What did you see?" The pain on his face begged explanation. He kept his distance, though, unwilling to touch me again.
I looked up at him, doing my best to stay in control of my emotions. That was the biggest problem with this mutation of mine. Taking on other's emotions was hard—they usually battled with my own and after having touched someone with those kinds of feelings, it was always hard to find my own again.
I took a deep breath, steadying myself. "The Mark," I began. "It tries to control you, doesn't it?"
Dean broke eye contact with me and turned away, rubbing his face with both hands. This was touching on a sensitive subject with him, and I knew it. Still shirtless, he stayed away from me, keeping his hands on his face, then rubbing his neck. The muscles in his back were tense, anxious. I wanted nothing more than to walk to him, to touch him, but I restrained. There was more to The Mark than he was letting on.
"I don't want Sam to be right," he started, sighing and turning back towards me, "but, yeah, it tries to take over. I'm angry all the time. I have this rage that only gets worse as time goes on." He shook his head. "Sam warned me about being with you. He was worried that I wouldn't be able to keep it in check."
"What is it?"
He held out his arm again, "The Mark of Cain."
"The story in the Bible? It's true. I met the guy. He wanted a way to defeat his brother, unmatched." He walked towards me, slowly, purposefully. "It comes with a blade. The 'First Blade' and when they're together, they're unbeatable."
I stayed quiet, waiting for more.
"But the problem that I've run into with this fucking thing is that it needs to be—" he cut off, not finding the word.
"Sated," I supplied, taking a quiet step forward.
Dean nodded, almost embarrassed. "I had to find a way to kill this Queen of Hell chick, Abaddon." He sighed. "It was the only way. But now, I'm stuck with it."
I moved again, wanting to touch him to get more of the story. He closed his eyes as I made contact. Mark of Cain. First blade. Bearded man wearing a suit, smiling coyly at Dean. Biker chick screaming as Dean dug the First Blade into her chest.
I opened my eyes, keeping my hand on Dean's chest. "Biker Chick is Abaddon?"
"Who is the bearded man?" I asked, trying my best to keep everyone in Dean's life straight. There were a lot of faces floating through his subconscious and I struggled, trying to keep my thoughts and his thoughts organized.
Dean tried to figure out whom I was talking about. "Wearing a suit and tie?" I nodded silently. "That's Crowley. King of Hell," he explained. Pausing and cocking his head, he added, "Actually not that bad of a guy." Dean reached for my arm as I rested it on his chest. "I have a hard time staying in control of it, but with you around, I have more of a reason to try." I nodded again, searching his face. "I won't hurt you, Grace. I refuse to."
I knew he was telling the truth. He would do anything in his power to protect me, I could feel it. He kissed my forehead and hugged me. We listened to the rain tapping on the glass of his window for a few moments. His heartbeat slowed and he calmed as I leaned on his chest. I looked up at him and smiled. "I trust you, Dean."
"That's what I'm afraid of."
Dean opened the door and started down the hall. I followed, still taking in the entirety of the "BatCave." It was like a step back in time. The décor, the ambiance, the smells…everything felt like it was out of the 50s. Now that I had the chance to look around, I was curious, "What is this place, Dean?"
He paused and turned, smiling. "This was the headquarters for the Men of Letters." He waggled his eyebrows. "I'm a legacy."
I shook my head at him, having no idea what he was talking about. "What the hell are the 'Men of Letters'?"
Walking, he continued. "It's a group of men from the 50s. My grandfather was a member. They were like a geeky bunch of hunters."
I listened to the pride in his voice as described the halls and the libraries. The books were ancient and he and Sam had only begun rifling though the information. He was saying, "I'm hoping there's something here about the Mark, but I haven't found it yet." He turned back to me again, "We even have a dungeon."
Sam was standing at the entry room table, books spread across the surface. He had a beer in his hand and was about to turn back to the sizzle from the kitchen when we walked in. Sam raised his eyebrows at Dean and Dean smiled back. "Hey, Sammy," he greeted his brother, smiling.
Sam tossed Dean a beer and turned to me. "Grace?"
I smiled. "Hi Sam, nice to meet you." There was a moment of awkwardness when Sam looked like he wanted to shake my hand, but I didn't extend, as usual.
"You, too." He turned to the skillet with a spatula and turned the hamburger patties. "You want a beer?" He opened the fridge and held out a bottle of beer.
"Yeah, thanks." Sam opened it and handed it to me. I took a drink and put it on the bar. Glancing around, I asked, "Where's the bathroom?"
Both boys pointed behind them and I brushed past Dean, not quite making contact with him. He grinned and I winked at him. I could feel his eyes on my back as I walked away.
Dean turned back to Sam and pointed his beer bottle at him. "Burgers smell great, Sammy."
"You brought her here?" Sam started, completely changing subjects. His voice was scolding. "Why would you bring her here?"
Dean held up his hands, surrendering. "I know, Sammy. I know, but I'm all in, man. She's…she's something else. I can't get enough of her. We were eating pie and then…I just needed her. She's like a drug."
Sam held up his hand, stopping Dean, "I don't need details, Dean! Why didn't you get a motel?"
"She's not a motel kinda girl, Sammy." Dean took a drink from his beer. "She's…she's," he faded off and Sam headed back over to the burger patties. "She's different than any other girl I've ever been with." He walked to the stove to where Sam was standing and changed direction. "Charlie has seen the BatCave. Why can't Grace?"
"Because you're sleeping with her, Dean!" As usual, he huffed air as he turned around. "When the novelty is over, she's still going to know where this place is."
"She's not a novelty, Sam. I wouldn't have brought her here if she was a novelty." He took another drink. "Just get to know her, man." Sam turned back to Dean and sighed. "Please, Sammy."
Sam took a deep breath and raised his eyebrows. "Why didn't she shake my hand?"
"I told you, she's a psychic. Only by touch." Dean ran a hand through his hair as he put his beer down. "She doesn't want to invade your privacy."
Sam was surprised. He tilted his head and asked, "Genuine?"
I walked back into the room to the boys talking quietly. Each had their beer in their hands and both were leaning up against the counter, their postures relaxed. I smiled, obviously having passed some sort of test. I grabbed my beer off of the bar as I passed them and sat down at the kitchen counter. "Smells great, Sammy."
"Thanks, Grace." He turned away from Dean and the burgers and nodded at my sweatshirt. "Your alma mater?"
Following his gaze, I glanced down at my sweater as well. "Once upon a time. Did my undergrad there. Did you go to school?"
Sam nodded sadly, "Yeah, prelaw. Once upon a time."
There was a quiet moment where the boys exchanged a glance I didn't understand yet. I chose to move on, ignoring it. Sam turned off the heat and took the burgers out of the pan as Dean was taking out ketchup and mustard. Sam put burger buns on the counter and brought down plates. They moved in a slow, synchronized dance, rehearsed after a lifetime of being together. These two were bonded in a way that I would never be a part of. It was really sweet.
Dean brought me a plate with a burger and he sat down next to me. Sammy took his plate to the other side of the bar, facing me. As we began to eat, Sam couldn't seem to stand it anymore. "You're a psychic?"
"Sam." Dean said, his voice low and warning.
Defending Sam immediately, I replied, "No, it's okay, Dean." I turned to Sam to try and explain, "Only by touch. It's why I didn't shake your hand earlier. I'm sorry. I don't like invading someone's brain without permission if I can help it." I took a bite of the burger. It was delicious. I didn't realize how hungry I was.
Dean was shoving food into his face. Pie wasn't enough for him either, apparently.
"So, every time you touch someone, you get a vision of their lives?" Sam took a bite and watched Dean and I for our reactions.
I shook my head, wiping my face with a napkin. "Not really a vision, more like snapshots. My touch has to be skin to skin."
Dean chimed in, "Only for three seconds. And you can project shit to her, too."
I shrugged. "Yeah, I guess. That's new." I took another bite, "Dean tried a couple times today. Apparently it works."
Sam stared at Dean and again, there was a moment of unspoken communication that I was not a part of. But, again, I passed some magical test, because Sam smiled. "Leave it to Dean to think outside the box."
"Let her touch you, Sammy." Dean raised his eyebrows at his brother and already Sam was shaking his head, but Dean was relentless. "Oh, come on. What you have up there in that brain of yours can't be any worse that what I got rattling around in mine."
I intervened, knowing how difficult it was to share your innermost secrets. "It's okay, Sam. I understand privacy. I wouldn't want me digging around up there either." I finished my burger and chased it with my beer. Already, I was feeling at home. I was in my sweatpants, after all. Dean finished his beer and got up to throw our plates in the trash. He was walking towards the fridge to get another beer and Sam leaned forward.
I locked eyes with Dean's brother and he held out his hand. I glanced down and raised my eyebrows at him. "Are you sure?" I asked, hesitating.
Sam nodded. Dean turned towards us just as I made contact, taking Sam's hand. Dean kneeling on the floor of a house, dead bodies everywhere, blood dripping from the First Blade. Watching as Dean walked away. Running silently down the halls of the Men of Letters house, trying to hide from Dean. Drawing a Devil's Trap on the floor of a dark room with spray paint. Seeing Dean's eyes turn black.
Dean was standing next to Sam, watching my reaction to the vision. He was tense, holding his beer in one hand, his other ready to separate Sam and I. I gasped as I came to, locking eyes with Dean.
The boys stared as I ran through the vision again. It wasn't just The Mark of Cain. I had seen Dean become a demon as well; his beautiful green eyes becoming jet black with a blink.
"I don't understand," I found myself saying as I shook my head. "Were you possessed? How did that happen?"
"What did you see?" Sam asked, leaning closer. Dean was already walking around the bar towards me. He knew my trust had been shaken, simply by watching my reaction.
"Dean, I'm fine," I said, backing away from him. "I just don't understand."
"What did you see?" Sam repeated, looking at his brother, then back at me.
I flashed back to the vision I had seen in Sam's subconscious, mostly concentrating on Dean's eyes and the fact that he was chasing Sam with an ax. "I saw you running from Dean. I saw Dean chasing you with an ax." I put the vision together with one of the flashes I had seen earlier in the day from Dean. Trench Coat had taken Dean from the back, trying to get him to gain control. Dean had been animalistic, roaring at Trench Coat and fighting tooth and nail to be released. He had been a demon during that flash. They must be the same scene, now stitched together.
I turned on the bar stool to face Dean, who was still a few steps away from me, hesitating. "You were a demon."
The boys glanced at each other again and Dean set his beer down on the counter. He lowered his eyes and took my hands. Behind Dean's door, embracing. Pillows, laughter, loving. Kissing my tattoo and my collar bone. These flashes calmed me, as Dean knew they would. I took a deep breath as Dean held my gaze.
"Was." Dean said simply. "I'm not anymore. Sam and Cas saved me."
Sam waited quietly.
"Who is Cas?" I ran through the pictures in my head of people I was familiar with from Dean's brain. "Trench Coat Man? Is that Cas?"
Sam chuckled from his seat across the bar. We ignored him.
"His name is Castiel." Dean looked around, almost anticipating Castiel appearing in the room. "He's an angel, but lately has been a little under the weather."
"An angel," I said, unable to hide the doubt in my voice.
"We've seen a lot of crazy shit, Gracie." Dean seemed to be comfortable again and took the seat next to me, keeping my hand in his and picking up his beer with the other. "Cas isn't just an angel, he's been our friend for a long time. Been through a lot of shit together. When I went through…that time in my life, he and Sam dragged my ass back to where I needed to be."
Sam took over and told it as simply as he could. "Dean died last year. I watched his life drain away. I carried his body to his bedroom and then Crowley showed up and," Sam took a drink. "Well. He woke up like that."
"Metatron killed him."
I reeled on Dean. "The Metatron? The Voice of God?"
Sam raised his eyebrows and finished off his beer, smiling. "This is fun," he murmured under his breath.
Dean chuckled. "Like I said, we've been through a lot of shit. It will take years to fill you in on the entire story." He took another drink. "I'd rather you not hear the entirety of it…I'm not proud of all the details, but I'm sure you could get the overall theme."
I drained my beer and set the bottle on the counter. "I'm gonna need another one of these." Sam smiled and turned towards the fridge. He opened it with the bottle opener on the counter and slid it to me.
Dean still had my hand, and for that I was grateful. I knew as long as he held it, I didn't have to worry about seeing anything else that I might not want to see yet. I gazed around the kitchen and out of the corner of my eye; I saw a clock hanging on the wall above the stove. "Oh, shit, is that clock right?"
Dean glanced at his watch. "Yeah, why?"
I got up, dropping Dean's hand and abandoning my thoughts, just three seconds before. I headed back towards Dean's bedroom, looking for my bag. Serra had probably left me about thirty voicemails. Or texts. Or both. Dean's footsteps echoed behind me, concerned. "I haven't checked in with Serra. She's probably freaking out." I found my phone at the bottom of my bag and clicked it on. Nothing. "Or she's completely at ease with your kidnap attempt and has written me off."
"She hasn't called?"
I held up my phone. "Nope. No texts, no nothing. I guess she trusts you."
Sam leaned up against the doorframe of Dean's room. "You might want to take it outside. Sometimes we don't get much service down here." Dean nodded in agreement.
"Great." I headed back down the hall, the boys following in my wake. I didn't even make it to the foyer and my phone began buzzing and beeping with missed calls and texts. Thirteen in all. I held up my phone again. "I need to call my sister."
Dean chuckled and nodded. He took another swig of his beer and said, "I can take you home if you need to go."
I smiled, flirtatious. "You trying to get rid of me already, Winchester?"
"That's me," he said, smug. "Love 'em and leave 'em."
From the kitchen, I heard Sam chime in. "Usually, that's the case."
"Don't listen to the peanut gallery," Dean said, a little too loudly. I smiled at him and walked into the wet wind. It was late. I hoped Serra would answer. I hit Serendipity's phone number on my favorites list and listened.
She answered on the first ring, breathless and worried. "Where are you?"
"I'm at Dean's," I replied, smiling to myself. I even loved the way Dean's name rolled off my tongue. She breathed a sigh of relief from her end of the phone. I took a breath and continued, "Sorry I didn't call sooner. Time just got away from us."
"Sure it did," she said, relaxing. "Did you use protection?"
"Shut up, Serra," came my automatic reply as I rolled my eyes. She chuckled from her end. "And you know I'm on the pill."
She gasped mockingly from over the phone. "You little Jezebel!" We both laughed, girly, falling into our typical pattern of over sharing information. "How was he?"
I glanced behind me, checking to make sure he was out of earshot. The boys were both in the kitchen, leaning on counters again, talking, relaxed. "Oh my God, Lucky. He is incredible." I turned back to the dark forest that surrounded us. "Gentle, passionate. He even made sure to keep a hand on me somewhere so I would always be present."
"More," she demanded, shoving a bite of food into her mouth and chewing. The sound of her fork was muffled through the phone's tiny speaker.
"He's beautiful, so much more so than I thought in my dream. His eyes are green and have little specks of gold and he's got freckles across his nose. He snores like a baby when he's asleep and his back is…Oh my God, his back, Luck. It's fun to touch, that's for sure."
Serra was giggling. "He has dimples too. Think about what your kids would look like!"
I allowed the picture to go through my head. His dimples and freckles with a mix of our eyes with my hair. They would be perfect. "Anyway, we don't have service down in his room. It's underground. So don't have a shit fit if I don't get back to you right away when you call." The absence of sound from the other end made me realize that Serra nodded in response. "I'm probably going to end up spending the entire night, considering it's mostly over anyway. That okay?"
Serra was chewing again. "Yeah, whatever. I know you're safe. I've got class in the morning. I'll text you before I leave."
I nodded this time. "Sounds good. I'm so glad I have a week of vacation left."
"Rub it in, why don't you. You've got hot man love and I'm stuck in Winter Session," Serra took a breath after she swallowed whatever she was eating. "Just be careful, sis."
"No worries, sis," I responded automatically. "Love you."
"Love you back," Serra said, more reflex than anything. "Call me tomorrow."
"Understood." I hung up and walked back towards the bunker. The clouds opened up again and the rain came down. My fears of my alley vision came back, a feeling hung over my shoulders that it wasn't me I should be worried about. I stared up at the sky, willing the rain to stop, willing my dream date to continue. Just to drive the point home, the sky lit up with lightning and the clouds echoed their thunderous reply. The door shut behind me and I walked back to the kitchen, not quite shaking the fear from my wet hair.
Serra hung up the phone and went back to dinner. Her mac and cheese was almost cold, but it still tasted just as good. She walked through the house with her bowl and went through the normal nightly ritual of shutting windows, locking doors, and turning on lights. Upstairs in Grace's room, the curtains blew in the cold wind, which was odd; Grace rarely left windows open. A chill hung in the air as Serra set down her bowl and walked towards the cold wind and rain that had started again. She reached for the window and pulled. As the window creaked into place, Serra noticed the scratches and mud smeared across the windowsill. Slowly reaching for the blade next to Grace's bed, Serendipity realized she was too late.
Dean had been touching me constantly since we arrived at the BatCave. In one way or another, his hands hadn't left my body. We found ecstasy again, rolling around in Dean's tiny bed, surrounded by our clothes and my hair. The storm was in full fury now; thunder and lightning tore through the sky. The rain pounded his windows and the skylights. I woke up from one of our in-between naps and my anxiety returned. The alley flashed through my head this time, reliving Dean pushing me against the wall and pulling his Desert Eagle. I turned, needing reassurance from Dean's sleeping face. He was breathing slowly, relaxed, with his arm draped around my abdomen. He lay on his stomach and his bare, muscled back rose and fell slowly with each breath.
I traced his elbow with my fingernail and felt the curve of his biceps. He had more freckles across his shoulders and very little body hair. I intertwined my fingers through his and watched the water splash against the glass windows. I couldn't shake the overwhelming feeling of danger. I reached with my other hand towards my phone to see if I had gotten any notifications. There were no missed calls or texts from Serendipity, but that didn't mean much, considering the lack of service from down in Dean's room. I tapped out a message and sent it to Serra, hoping that I would wake her up and she would respond immediately. It was a little past one in the morning, but that didn't matter. A lot of the time, Serra would stay up, watching "Friends" or studying. I was hoping this would be one of those times.
My text went through, after a few minutes of struggling, and I waited semi-patiently. Dean continued to breathe quietly, still deep in post-coital sleep. The minutes passed slowly, staring at my phone. My breathing became shallow and nervous. I broke out in a sweat and a sheen covered my chest and face. I don't know how I knew, but there was something wrong. I felt crazy for thinking it, but I swore I could hear Serendipity.
Dean must have sensed my unease. He woke slowly, but on alert. Unmoving, he made eye contact with me, "What, Gracie?" he asked, his deep voice low.
I shook my head, unwilling to say it aloud.
He sat up and the sheet fell to the side. Wrinkles were spread across his bare chest from the crumpled sheet he slept on. "Grace."
"Something is wrong." I tried braiding my hair, but my fingers stumbled on the simple movements and mostly whispering, I murmured, "I heard her."
He was up and moving before I really comprehended what was happening. He grabbed his jeans, shirt, and flannel and threw them on. Running a hand through his hair, he tossed my sweatshirt and my pants to me and gestured. "Tell me on the way."
I got up, got dressed and grabbed my phone again, staring at the screen. The message said 'delivered' but it had yet to be read. Dean was trotting up the hall, grabbing keys and boots as he padded into the living space. He bent to tie his other boot and tossed me my bag.
Though we made little noise, Sam followed us into the living area, leaning on the kitchen counter. His hair was disheveled and unruly, his eyes still half closed from the brightness of the overhead lights. "What's up?"
"Follow us in another car." Dean tossed a set of keys to Sam and instantly the brothers were preparing for the worst.
Sam was alert, now, grabbing a jacket and his boots. The speed at which we were ready was alarming, and I knew most of it was the hunter in all of us. Dean and Sam were communicating wordlessly again, much the same way Serra and I did. Dean tossed me a poncho and I threw it on over top of my sweatshirt. My Ugg boots would get soaked, but I cared very little. I was overwhelmed with worry.
We were in the Impala and backing down the driveway with Sam following us in an El Camino in under four minutes. Dean glanced at me and raised his eyebrows. "Alright, what are we dealing with?"
I shook my head again, the alley flashing through my mind. "I don't really know, but I had a vision in the bathroom before you came to pick me up for pie."
Dean sighed, "Why didn't you tell me earlier?"
"I don't know, Dean," I started, emotion already hanging in my voice. "I don't usually see the future. I didn't think too much of it, but then it started to rain and I freaked a bit."
"What does the rain have to do with it?"
Taking a deep breath, I tried my best to explain the vision I had in the bathroom with Serra. "I saw us running through an alley at night. You were protecting me from something, I don't know what, but it was raining and there were puddles on the ground. My hair was wet." I chanced a glance at Dean. "You must have heard something because you shove me against the wall, pull your gun, give me your keys, and tell me to run."
His jaw set, hunter completely taking over. He glanced at me and said, "It's going to be fine, Grace." I don't think Dean knew what to do with the information I was giving him. I could feel his eyes on me, evaluating. The rain came harder and lightning flashed across the sky again.
Dean's phone rang from inside his pocket. He answered it without hesitating and Sammy's voice came over the speaker. "What are we dealing with?"
Still staring at me, Dean took a breath to answer his brother. "Rougarou," he said simply.
"Got it," Sam said, hanging up the phone.
I stared at Dean. "I killed the rougarou." He glanced at me and made a face full of doubt. "I shot it with a silver bullet, decapitated it, and burned its corpse."
"Did you check for the rest of the pack?"
I closed my eyes, my heart sinking into my stomach. Rougarou tend to be independent hunters, but can sometimes be included in a pack. They're also vindictive creatures, seeking revenge on other packs that invade their territory. Obviously, Serra and I would be the enemy pack. They came for Serra.
I could feel tears stinging my eyes and didn't want to lose it in front of Dean. I was a hunter, after all, but a monster had my sister. A monster that we had supposedly killed.
Dean took my hand from my face. Rain, skylights, candles. Skin. Pillows. Sweat. Embracing, kissing, elation. Projecting images into my brain was a great new trick. At the same time, it concerned me that Dean could control his thoughts the way he did. He had the ability to lie to me, and I didn't know how I felt about it. His thoughts calmed me, though, which was exactly his intent, so I welcomed them.
We were a few minutes away from our house. I had already unbuckled my seatbelt, ready to throw myself out of the car. Dean still had his hand on mine, holding me in place. I looked towards him, questioning. His face was tight as he answered my look. "I know she's your sister, and trust me, I would be acting the same way about Sam, but you can't just run in, unprepared. You need to follow us. We're locked and loaded, but we don't know what we're about to walk in on."
I nodded. "I know," I said, reaching behind me for the .38 Smith and Wesson that was in my bag. I checked the revolver for how many rounds I had left. I clicked my tongue in disappointment in myself. "I've only got four shots left."
"There's more rounds in the trunk. Grab a box for your pocket when we get out."
Dean pulled the Impala up to the house, shutting off the engine and lights before we were in front. Sam had parked down the street and was coming up behind us, gun drawn and silently motioning to the house. A few lights were on and it looked pretty locked up, but Sam was pointing to my window on the side of the house, upstairs. We glanced up as I got out of the car and I could see my curtains blowing in the breeze. The rain had stopped, for now, but thunder still echoed in the distance. There was mud spattered across the stucco of the house that had started to wash away in the rain. Someone (or something) had climbed up the trellis and left footprints, but rain had already washed some of the mud away.
Dean and Sam were already padding up the front walk, guns drawn, ready for anything. I grabbed a couple of extra rounds and stuffed them into my pocket as I ripped off the poncho and threw my bag into the trunk. I lowered it quietly and joined Dean on the porch. He pointed with two fingers down the side of the house and Sam nodded. Sam followed the garden brick sidewalk around the side of the house and I followed Dean inside. The door was ajar and my heart jumped into my throat.
My impulse was to run through the house, screaming Serra's name, but I contained myself, huddled behind Dean. The house was a disaster; mud and leaves were strewn about the place, mostly down the stairwell. Serra's books were whipping in the wind from the door being open and her still-cold beer had toppled over in the fight. Dean headed up the stairs and I was right behind him. I turned, covering his back, as we climbed. He tapped my sweatshirt hood and I turned to look past him.
There was blood pooled in the hall. I gasped, covering my mouth with my free hand. Dean shushed me and pulled me the rest of the way by the shoulder of my sweatshirt. He forced me into Serra's bedroom and closed the door. "Hold it together," he whispered. "It might not be hers."
I nodded and he opened the door again. We padded down the hall and headed back to my room. It was trashed. There was mud, blood, twigs, and rainwater splashed everywhere. My bed was torn apart, the pillows and mattress askew. The curtains had been pulled down and the heavy curtain rod was bent where it had been used as a bat against something. Serendipity had put up quite a fight.
Dean listened for a moment and looked down out of the window. He whistled to Sam and pointed back downstairs. "They're not here." Dean holstered his gun and ran a hand through his hair and rubbed his face. We met Sam back in the living room, and I was trying my best to keep calm, but the panic seared through my veins like wildfire.
Sam turned and holstered his gun, combing his fingers through his hair. He shook the drops from his face and coat and raised his eyebrows at Dean. "What next?"
The rougarou had obviously taken Serra back to its den. I turned to the boys and took a deep breath. "The den was under a sewer grate right outside of the tool store at the end of town." They both glanced up, and I continued, "That's probably where the rest of the pack is."
Dean nodded, "Alright, let's go."
We headed back to the cars and I tried hard to stay calm. My vision was coming true. I could picture the alley behind the tool store, and we were heading right towards it. I pulled out my phone and tried it again as we stood outside of the Impala. It rang over and over. Nothing.
Starting the car, Dean peeled out, hydroplaning slightly on the wet pavement. Sam stuck right behind us in the El Camino. It only took a few minutes to get to the hardware store and we pulled up to the front as Sam pulled around to the back, boxing in the parking lot.
We all got out of the cars and I tried Serra's phone again. I could hear the ring of the phone in stereo, through the phone and muffled in my other ear, maybe coming from underground. I took off, running, towards the end of the parking lot, towards the sound of the phone. Sam and Dean were on my heels, guns drawn. Serra's phone went to voicemail and I redialed. We listened again and heard it, still slightly ahead of us. I pulled my .38 and jogged to the back of the building. Sam whistled and pointed low; the curb drain echoed with Serra's ringtone.
Dean was pulling the grate out of the ground while Sam turned the flashlight and his gun down the ladder. The boys exchanged glances again and Sam shrugged. "We've been down worse." Sam handed the flashlight to Dean and started down the ladder. There was a rustling as Sam made his way into the dark sewer.
Turning to watch behind us, I tightened my grip on my .38, wishing that I had my .45 as I stared into the darkness at the creature staring back. "Guys," I whispered, nudging Dean's jacket with my hand. Dean turned with the flashlight and caught a flash of eyes in the dark.
"There's more than one," came Dean's hushed reply.
Sam jumped to the bottom of the ladder, splashing slightly as he hit the ground. "Guys?" His voiced echoed from the bottom, "What's wrong?"
"Back up the ladder, Sam. Come back up the ladder." Dean turned and pointed his gun down the alley as the rain started again.
Rage bubbled in my throat, sour and hot. I loaded two more silver bullets into the .38 and took off down the parking lot. Dean chased after me, tossing a silver knife to Sam as he followed us. Our feet splashed through the puddles as I rounded the corner of the building. This was it: the alley from my vision.
Two rougarou stood at the end of the alley and I fired two shots with my gun in rapid succession. I hit one of them and it unleashed a primal scream as it collapsed and hit the ground. The other leaned over the fallen and roared at us, its cry echoing into the night. Dean fired twice as well and hit it once in the leg and another grazed its neck. Adrenaline flowed through me, heightening my senses as we watched the lone rougarou head right for us. Sam braced, ready for the attack. I fired again, aiming for the rougarou's heart. I silently cursed myself because my aim had never been as accurate as my sister's and I only managed to hit it in the shoulder as it continued to barrel straight towards us. It screamed again as it ran. In one motion, Dean shoved me against the wall of the alley, pulling his gun, and drips of water fell into my hair. It was like some sick déjà vous. The rougarou ran right past us and attacked Sam.
Pushing the keys of the Impala into my hand, Dean spoke without touching me. "Go. Take the car and head home. We'll follow."
"What about Serra?" I asked as I turned away from the monster as it clawed at Sam's face.
"Grace, go," Dean commanded and turned to join the fight.
Rolling my eyes, I grabbed his keys and took off the opposite way down the alley. Dean took a deep breath and smiled as he brought out his own silver blade. Finally, he had an excuse to kill something with his own hands. As I ran down the alley, I was shouting Serendipity's name. "Serra! Serra!"
I whipped around, hearing my sister's voice float into the night. "Serra!"
The boys were locked in battle with the remaining rougarou as I continued down the alley. "Serra!" She answered me again, louder. I looked down and saw that I was standing on a grate. "Grace!" I could just see Serra's face through the bars and I leaned down to see her. She was muddy and bloody, but otherwise she looked okay.
"Serra! Holy shit, are you okay?"
"I am now," she answered, sounding slurred. She probably had a concussion. "Get me the fuck out of here."
I put Dean's keys in my pocket and leaned down, pulling as hard as I could on the wet grate. I could hear the battle raging on at the other end of the alley and the rougarou screaming in pain as Dean dragged his silver blade across its chest. Sam was running across the pavement towards me as Dean finished off the rougarou. He let out a roar as he threw the rougarou's corpse aside, running to help Sam and I pull the grate off of the hole in the ground.
I knew it was ridiculous to be as upset as I was. We had been through much worse in the past, and I could see with my own eyes that Serra was alive and well, but tears came to my eyes as Dean and Sam lifted the grate from the sewer. "Serra!" I laid on the ground, reaching for her hands in the dark. "Almost, Lucky." Dean held the back of my arm as I reached farther, Sam grabbed her other arm and we pulled my baby sister from the dark.
We wrapped our arms around each other and I let out a relieved laugh. "Are you okay? Did it bite you?" I asked, pulling her flannel away from her arms to inspect her.
Serra was shaking her head, "No, they just took me. It's like they were waiting for you." I looked at Serra's face and wiped the mud from her forehead with my sweatshirt sleeve. Her face was filthy, full of mud and blood, but otherwise, she looked unhurt.
Sam's voice was quiet, "How many were there?"
Serendipity glanced up at him, still wrapped in my arms. "Just the two."
Dean picked us both up to our feet. "Come on, let's get you two warmed up."
We sat in our living room, looking at the disaster that surrounded us. The boys had already cleaned up a lot of the debris that had blown in from the storm and front door being open. I had thrown Dawn dish soap and baking soda on top of the bloodstain at the top of the stairs and vacuumed what I could of the mud from the carpet in my bedroom. Dean had double-checked all of the windows and doors, making sure they were closed and locked, with the curtains drawn.
Serendipity had taken a hot shower and I had inspected her body for scratches or bites. She was in the clear. Now, staring at each other from the chairs and couches downstairs, we had settled into a state of recovery. Sam was on my laptop, checking for anymore suspicious "animal" attacks from the local news and Dean sat, perched on the barstool behind us, waiting.
Finally, Serra spoke. "I'm hungry," she said quietly, a grin playing across her face. She chanced a sideways glance at me, "you feel like some pie?"
Dean chuckled from behind us, getting a giggle from Serra. I smiled, the tension broken. Standing, I headed into the kitchen, putting my hair in a bun. "We have some steaks in the fridge. Feel like a really-early-steak-and-eggs?"
This seemed to get Dean's attention. He stood, shrugging off his leather jacket. "Hell yes," he said, rolling up his sleeves.
Sam shut the laptop and nodded. "I'll second that."
Serra got up from the couch, joining me in the kitchen and we began our own dance of sibling meal preparation. I got out the steaks and the stovetop grill pan and Serra brought the eggs out of the fridge. After a few minutes of sizzling, Dean and Sam sat, facing us from the other side of the bar. Serendipity nudged my elbow as she smiled at Dean and Sam, heads together, speaking quietly.
"Holy hell, they're both beautiful," she whispered into my shoulder. "Would it be really awkward if I took Sam romantically upstairs?"
I laughed, "Jesus, Serra. They're gonna think we're hillbillies. Brothers fucking sisters? It's weird." I glanced at the bar, eyeing Dean, and he caught me; lingering eye contact sent goose bumps up my arms. He gave me a flirty smirk and I flushed, reliving our last romantic encounter.
Serra leaned into me and I could tell she was grinning. "Are you picturing the sex?"
Giggling, Serra grabbed the tongs and lifted the first steak off of the grill. She put it on a plate to rest as she cracked two eggs into the frying pan. Dean walked over to wash his hands in the sink and I tossed him a towel. He dried, glancing at Serra and then back at me. "How long had you been down there, Serra?"
Covering the eggs with a pot lid to poach, Serra turned to Dean. "I don't know…maybe about forty or forty-five minutes? Not long at all."
Dean held the towel between his hands and tilted his head. "How long do you think the attack took?"
Serra's face fell, replaying the rougarou attack through the house. "I don't know. One came in through the window upstairs and I went after it with Grace's blade. I got him across the shoulder in the hall and took off down the steps." She turned and gestured to the door, "I think the other one just came in through the front door, but it blocked my path and took me down."
"So, maybe two minutes," Dean said, moving closer to me.
"If that," Serra said, taking the eggs off the heat.
I furrowed my eyebrows, confused as to what Dean was getting at. I pulled another steak and set it on the plate to rest. Dean was exchanging a look with Sam, but the younger brother was obviously as mystified as we were about the point of Dean's questions.
Dean looked back at me. "It only took us about five minutes to get up and going, headed to Serra."
"So?" I said, going back to the other two steaks on the grill.
"Do you remember what you said when I woke up?"
I replayed our few moments before we were getting dressed. I remembered telling Dean that something was wrong, but that's the only thing I was able to pull from my memory. I shook my head, shrugging. "I said that something was wrong."
"And?" he said, taking another step towards me.
I shrugged again. I had no idea what Dean was getting at.
He smiled, "You said there was something wrong, yeah, but then you said, 'I heard her.'" Dean smiled and glanced at Sam, who had puffed a breath out in surprise.
Serendipity was shaking her head, surprised. "I don't believe it."
I was more confused than ever. I looked around the room and finally turned to stare at Dean. "What the hell are you talking about?" I asked, gesturing with the plate I was holding.
Serra looked at me and smiled. "You could hear me, Gracie. I yelled for you right as they were carrying me out of the house." She glanced at Dean, "He's right—the timing lines up. You guys were in the alley faster than you should have been."
I was shaking my head, unbelieving. "No, it was just the vision I had in the bathroom."
Serra was shaking her head back at me. "No way. You had no idea about the details. You didn't know it was gonna be about me." She smacked me across the arm. "Holy shit, Gracie! You can hear me!"
I pulled the last two steaks and set them on their own plates. Serra was starting more eggs and Sam and Dean glanced at each other again. I was doubtful. "I am only psychic by touch. This…this doesn't make any sense."
"Nothing about what you can do makes any sense, Grace," Serra was saying as I tried to wrap my head around what they were explaining. "Think about it; twins usually have some weird 'twin-sense.'"
"We're not twins."
"That doesn't matter!" Serra exclaimed, "Dean's right! There's no other way you could have been there at a better time. You were there so fast." She paused, obviously trying to contain her excitement. "Remember when I broke my arm at school and you were there before the ambulance?"
I shook my head. "They called me before they called the ambulance."
Serra shrugged me off, still thinking wildly about her past. "How about when I had that sleep over at that girl Sydney's house? We watched Pet Semetary and I flipped out about her cat?" I heard Dean chuckle at this and ignored him. Serra saw it as an opening, turning to Dean with her hands on her hips. "She woke up our dad before I had made the phone call."
Sam finally spoke. He started carefully, not knowing how much he was allowed to have an opinion. "Grace, there are very few psychics, genuine psychics, that even exist. Up until now, I had never heard of one who only reads thoughts by touch." He emphasized with air quotation marks, making me sound even more ridiculous. "Maybe you just haven't tapped into your potential."
"We found out today that I can project thoughts into her mind," Dean said quietly. His voice was low and rough. My eyes found his and he tilted his head. "Have you ever even tried?"
I remained silent, still insistent that I was limited on my abilities. I didn't want to be any more of a freak than I already was. From the other side of the kitchen, I heard Serra say, "You can what?"
"One thing at a time, " I said, handing her a plate of steak and eggs. She took it, sat next to Sam at the bar and stared at me, waiting for an explanation. As I dished the rest of the meal and handed a plate to each of the boys, I could still feel Serra's eyes on me. I sighed, saying, "Fine. Yes, Dean can feed me images when I touch him."
Serra shot a look at Dean. "You can lie to her."
Dean stared at his steak and eggs with his knife and fork in his hands. "That's not exactly my intent, but yeah, I guess I can." I knew he didn't like having it said aloud, but I had wondered the exact same thing. So far in my life, Dean has been the only one who has had that ability. "It wasn't that hard. I just pictured what I wanted her to see as we touched."
"You've taken this day to a whole new level, Deano," Serendipity said, taking a huge bite of meat. "Congratulations."
Sam and Serra headed to the living room to finish cleaning up the disaster that was left. Dean stood next to me with a dishtowel, waiting.
"What are you doing?" I asked, eyeing him, suspicious.
He furrowed his eyebrows. "I was gonna dry the dishes, but if that's not okay, I'll sit and watch you while I drink a beer."
I rolled my eyes, still sifting the day through my head. I wasn't completely lucid; the day had exhausted me. Dean chuckled again, reaching for the first clean plate. He ran the towel around the edges of the plate first, wiping off the excess drips. Then he dried the front and back like a pro and set it on the pile of plates in the cupboard. "This isn't your first time drying dishes," I said, trying to ignore the fact that I had been wearing the same clothes for almost thirty-six hours. I could see one of his dimples surface and disappear. He was exhausted, too.
"Nope," he said, "not my first rodeo. I can be domestic, too." He stepped closer to me and lowered his voice. "Grace, I don't wanna push you because whatever we are is still so new," he said, gesturing to the both of us, "but you've gotta know how much potential you have."
I could feel the frustration bubbling just below the surface. I knew it was the exhaustion from the day, but I couldn't help it when I said, "I don't want to know how much potential I have. I'm don't want to be a fucking mutant." I turned to him, his eyes and jaw set. "I have tried to hide this all my life, especially from other hunters." I handed him another wet plate. "You should have seen some of the reactions I've gotten in my life, mostly from people just like you."
He listened quietly, drying the plates that I handed him. I could see his jaw flex as he grit his teeth. His anger was rising, and I wasn't really sure how far to push him, but I couldn't let it go. "Everyone always wants to categorize me; monster or human?" Another plate. "Good or evil?" I rolled my head from side to side. "Just once, I'd like to just ignore the fact that I have this 'ability' as your brother put it, and just lead a relatively normal life."
Dean stayed quiet for a few moments, still gritting his teeth, and put the last plate back in the cupboard. Finally, he sighed and turned towards me, flannel sleeves rolled up, shirtfront unbuttoned, revealing the black t-shirt underneath. He lowered his face so that it was level with mine. Dean was still warm, if not warmer than he had been in bed. "There's no normal, Gracie. It's just life, and until now, I really didn't know how to live it." Reaching for my arm, he hesitated so the flashes could finish. This time, they weren't projected, they were genuinely random thoughts and memories: working on the Impala with a wrench, talking to Castiel. Fighting a female demon with dark hair. Watching Sam be thrown against a wall by a demon with white eyes. I came back to Dean staring at my face, concern etched into the crow's feet near his eyes. "I need you to know that I'll never lie to you. I lie to a lot of people, but I don't want to lie to you. I won't send you thoughts anymore, if you don't want me to."
I sighed, anger and frustration leaving me. My hands were still immersed in the dishwater and his hand rested on my bare arm. Before I really knew what I was doing, I was learning against him, kissing him, pulling my hands out of the warm, soapy water to wrap around his neck. He immediately did the same, wrapping his arms around my waist and bending to reach me.
Too late, I realized that we were in Serendipity's line of sight from the living room. She sighed and clicked her tongue, annoyed. "You have a bedroom, you know."
I trudged up the stairs to my room and Dean followed, much the same way. We were exhausted. I stepped around the semi-cleaned bloodstain on the carpet and shook my head. "I'm gonna have to buy a mat to cover that." We both stood and stared momentarily. I shook my head again, continuing the trek to my room.
Opening the door, I was already shrugging out of my sweatshirt and comfy (but filthy) red sweatpants. Dean closed the door behind him and watched me throw my clothes into the laundry hamper in nothing but my bra and panties. His eyebrows were up, a smirk had plastered itself across his face, and I shrugged. "I'm too tired to care about modesty."
He sat on the edge of my bed and took off his socks and lay back on the blankets. "Hate to break it to you, beautiful, but there's not much left to hide."
I nodded. That was very true. I sat down next to him, putting a hand on his leg. The warmth through his jeans was nice; the house had a chill to it. "I'm gonna go take a shower. I feel so gross."
His fingers began to trace the outlines of the tattooed swallows on by back. The flashes started immediately: Abaddon screaming as Dean tossed her across the room, Sam sitting shotgun in the Impala, both boys singing 'Dead or Alive' at the top of their lungs, Sam sitting on a ragged couch, eating popcorn and Dean telling him to scoot. Dean's warm fingers still traced my tattoo up my back and around my hips. His fingers were rough, but I really didn't mind. He stopped tracing and laid his hand across the small of my back, the heat radiating from his palm. I turned to see his eyes close, finally relaxing a bit. I wanted to get up and get in the shower, but I also just wanted to lay down with Dean, huddle close to his warm body and fall asleep. He could sense my stare and opened his eyes, just enough to see the peek of green beneath his lids.
I smiled, coy. "You wanna join me?"
"Well, I don't know…" he started, a smile refusing to be hidden from his lips. "Shower sex can be so complicated."
"You assume too much, sir," I said, getting up and grabbing my robe. I flashed him a smile and walked to the door. "You coming?"
He shrugged out of his flannel and let it fall to the floor. "I'm sure I will be," and he followed me into the bathroom.
Serra and Sam sat on the couch, both exhausted, simply staring at whatever was in front of them. Finally, Serra spoke, "You don't have to stay, you know. Grace is upstairs with Dean and something tells me they're not coming down for awhile."
A half smile crossed Sam's face. "I know. They were like that all today," he said, rubbing his face, "God, is it still today? Tomorrow? I don't even know."
Serendipity glanced at the clock, "It's almost three in the morning," she answered, "so, tomorrow, technically." She got up from the couch and grabbed a blanket from the entry way closet. She glanced at Sam, "You want a blankie?"
Smiling, Sam shook his head. "Nah, I'm good, thanks."
Shrugging, Serra wrapped herself up and burrowed into the couch again, feet close to Sam's legs. He laid his head back, closing his eyes. From his position, he spoke, "I haven't seen Dean happy in a long time." He sighed, smiling lightly. "I think your sister is good for him."
Nodding, Serra agreed. "When I talked to her earlier, she was smitten. That doesn't usually happen because of her psychic thing. She always feels like she either knows too much about the men she dates, or then end up trying to hide something from her." She tied her hair into a high ponytail. "Apparently, Dean's secrets aren't anything she's upset about."
"That's surprising," Sam said under his breath. "'Dean's got a lot of secrets, even from me."
Serra shrugged, "Well, he doesn't from her." She thought for a moment, tilting her head to the side. "Although that whole 'projecting' thing might throw a wrench into how accurate her visions are."
The two were quiet for a while, listening to the wind from the storm blow the trees about. Soon, Serra could hear the rhythmic deep breathing of sleep coming from Sam. He was out. Serra nestled into her blanket more, sinking down into the couch cushions. She turned, resting her feet against Sam's thigh and very quickly, she joined him in dreamland.
The sun shone, filtered, through the curtains in my room. Dean snored lightly from his chest-down position, his bare arm draped across my bare shoulders. I glanced at the digital clock on the nightstand next to me: 10:38. At least we were able to catch up on some sleep. I had the urge to roll closer to Dean, but I didn't want to wake him up. I watched him sleep, his eyes were moving under his eyelids. I wondered momentarily if he was dreaming. If he wasn't touching me, I would most likely be able to touch him and tap into his dreams. I've done it before to Serra. I remained, instead, perfectly still and watched the beautiful man next to me breathe.
I couldn't believe how much had happened since seeing Dean for the first time in the bar down the street. Only two days had passed since that first encounter, but more and more, I felt entwined into Dean's life. To think I had been alone two days ago seemed laughable. Of course, labeling what we were was probably dangerous territory. I hadn't seen any relationships or particular women in Dean's brain, but I figured that was mostly because his life always seemed to be in danger. It was a subject I didn't dare broach with him yet, but being female, I couldn't help myself. Maybe I could get it out of Sam.
Dean stirred, his eyes squeezing shut and slowly opening. Not moving from his place on the bed, he rubbed his face into the pillow he was laying on and his hair fluffed slightly more as he turned to face me. "I think I've gotten more sleep in the last two days with you next to me than I have in the last nine months or so."
"That means you're comfortable with me," I said, smiling. "You're relaxed."
"It's probably the most relaxed I've been in years," he said, rolling to his back, finally breaking contact with me. His chest was wrinkled again; sheet lines zigzagged up towards his neck. He hadn't moved once he lay down on the bed after our shower. Dean sat up in bed, the muscles in his shoulders and back got all the right shadowing from the light from the window. He glanced back at me and smiled. "You got a shirt that'll fit me?"
I smiled, "Yeah, I have a couple." Sitting up, I padded to the dresser and pulled out two choices: a ragged navy blue college tee or a red Chiefs shirt. He held out his hand for the football tee and pulled it on. It was tight in all the right places. Still wrapped in the sheet, he looked down at himself.
"I don't think Sam or Serra would appreciate me being naked from the waist down," he said, looking back up at me.
I tilted my head. "Oh, no, Serra would appreciate it very much, but I have pants. Or shorts." I paused to look back at him. "Which do you prefer?"
"I don't wear shorts," he said, pulling back the blankets and walking towards me. Taking the gray sweatpants I offered to him, he kissed my cheek. I waited for the flashes to start. They didn't.
I stared at Dean, my eyes wide. "What?" he asked, pulling on the gray sweats. "What's the matter?"
"I didn't see anything when you kissed my cheek."
Dean scowled slightly. "I know we talked about projecting images to you last night, and I won't anymore, but I wanted to try."
"Try what?" I said, still standing completely nude in the middle of my room.
Dean glanced at the look on my face, and grimacing apologetically, he said, "What you said last night, about being normal...I wanted to just try, to see if you could be, at least with me. I 'projected' nothing. I emptied my brain. Thought of a blank slate."
I attempted to wrap my mind around this information. It was the first time I had an uneventful first touch in almost fifteen years. I was dumbfounded. "Dean, that is incredible. Do it again."
He reached for my face; his warmth was the only thing I experienced. No images, no people I didn't know. There was nothing but my own thoughts as he touched me. I was elated. It was as if, just for a moment, I was just as normal as everyone else. I opened my eyes and stared up at him. "Thank you," I whispered, closing my eyes.
"Thinking outside of the box. Being you." I reached up and kissed him, still no flashes. It was spectacular.
I turned away from him and pulled out my own clothes: a tank top, undies, and jammie pants. I headed to the door, but before I turned the knob, I faced Dean once more. "I apologize ahead of time for Serendipity if she did anything to Sam."
"Did anything?" Dean scoffed, "Trust me, Sam could use a little bit of 'anything.'" He grinned at me, "I hope she did."
I opened the door and headed down the hall, walking around the tint of red in the carpet. Dean headed towards the bathroom, "I'm right behind you."
Walking quietly down the stairs, I glanced towards the couch. Serra was wrapped from head to toe in her favorite purple blanket. She looked like she was in a sleeping bag that even covered her face. Sam was propped up on the pillows at the other end of the couch, his arm draped over his eyes, blocking the light. His boots were on the floor next to him and his legs were wedged in between the back of the couch and the Serra-Burrito. It didn't look like they had done…anything, but knowing Serra, that didn't mean much.
I padded to the kitchen and started some coffee. It occurred to me then, how normal we all seemed. We hadn't just killed two rougarou and burned their corpses. We weren't psychics or monster hunters. For that moment, we just seemed like sisters and brothers, all sharing one roof.
From the couch, Serendipity stirred. I knew she heard the coffee pot and looked over towards her. I could see her eyes peek from inside her blanket, her eyes seeking mine. "Good morning, sunshine," I said, smiling. "Don't you have class?"
Her eyes moved to check the clock. Muffled, she sighed, "It started forty-five minutes ago."
I shrugged, "Oh well. It wasn't a final, was it?"
"Well, shit," I said. "Are you going to be able to make it up?" She shrugged from inside the blanket. "You'll figure it out, I'm sure," I finished, getting four mugs from the cupboard. I looked back at Serra. "Did you and Sam enjoy your night?"
I could see her eyes crinkle into a smile from the face hole in her blanket burrito. "We did," she said coyly.
Tilting my head, I responded immediately, shocked. "You didn't!"
Serra smiled again. "No, you big prude. We just talked a bit and fell asleep."
Dean walked up from behind me saying, "I wouldn't call her a prude." Serra giggled again as Sam moved next to her. Addressing Sam, Dean spoke louder, "Wakey, wakey, eggs and bakey!"
Confused, Sam furrowed his eyebrows and woke up, looking around, seemingly wondering where he was, "Huh?" He rubbed his eyes and ran both hands through his hair.
"One big, happy family," Dean said, smiling. I glanced at him, momentarily wondering if he was being sarcastic, but after the seeing the genuine smile that was plastered on his face, there was no doubt in my mind that he was as happy as he looked. He still watched his brother as he brought his legs down from around Serra and stood. Sam still looked slightly confused and Dean grinned even broader at him. "Have a nice night, Sammy?"
"Huh? Yeah, sure." Sam chanced a glance at Serendipity and smiled lightly. "Did you sleep like that?" he asked, still looking at Serra.
Still in her blanket cocoon, she nodded and smiled.
Sam pointed down the hall behind the kitchen. "Is there a bathroom down here?"
I nodded. "Yeah, at the end of the hall."
The coffee pot beeped, finished brewing, and Dean took the pot and poured four cups. He looked quite pleased with himself; the bags from under his eyes had disappeared over night and he looked younger, more at ease. He added a little sugar and milk, stirred it and took a sip, testing it before he gave the mug to me. I accepted it, grinning at the idea that Dean had paid enough attention to me yesterday at the pie shop to notice how I favored my coffee. Turning back to the counter, he picked up another mug full of coffee and left it black, taking a sip and smiling to himself.
The rustle of blankets turned our attention back to Serra. She was attempting to untangle herself from her blanket, slightly tripping as she stood up to her full height. Her hair was disheveled and her clothes were twisted. Dean and I watched her as she straightened herself out.
Finally, she caught us staring at her and she grinned. "See, I have no shame because you're already sleeping with her," she said to Dean.
He smiled back and answered, "What about Sammy? What would he think?"
Serra was never one to miss a beat, "Why do you think I waited for him to leave?" She waggled her eyebrows at Dean, who chuckled and raised his coffee cup towards her.
"Many blessings," Dean said, still with his coffee cup in the air.
Serra had cleaned up and gone to her next class, giving Sam a hug as she left. His face had flushed slightly as she kissed him on the cheek. She waved goodbye to me and closed the door behind her. I had cleaned up the kitchen and was working on my third cup of coffee. Dean was sitting at our dining room table and Sam had perched on the barstool again, drinking his coffee.
"What's the plan, Dean?" Sam said, setting down his cup. He had my laptop open in front of him again, reading news off of three or four of the surrounding counties' newspaper websites. "There may be a coven of vamps to the west of us, down the 70. You interested?" Dean had been staring towards me, lost in thought. I smiled at him, raising my eyebrows. "Dean?" Sam repeated, "Vampires?"
Dean shook his head, bringing his attention to his little brother. "What?" He glanced towards me, confused, "What is down the 70?"
Sam rolled his eyes, "Vampires. At least there might be, according to this," he said, gesturing towards the computer. "Wanna go check it out?"
Shrugging, Dean finally looked at Sam. "I dunno, Sammy. Doesn't Jaeger live over that way?" He took a drink of coffee and tilted his head, "Can't we just give him a head's up and let he and his insane cousins handle it?"
Sammy closed the laptop and shrugged. "Yeah, I guess." I could see this would be the beginning of a brotherly 'discussion' that did not include me. Well, it did. Just not in an interactive way. I quietly set my coffee cup down and padded out of the kitchen, heading for the stairs. I know that Dean noticed me leave, but he said nothing. I made it to the top of the stairs as the heat entered the conversation.
"So, what, Dean," Sam began, annoyance and disapproval flowing through his voice, "you're just going to shack up with this girl and forget about hunting?"
"It's been two days, Sam," Dean started, trying carefully to keep the edge out of his voice. "I'm not forgetting about hunting. I'm just…reevaluating the priorities in my life." He set his empty coffee cup down and leaned on the counter, head hanging limp. "My first priority right now is to get rid of this son of a bitch," he said, gesturing to The Mark, burned into his arm. "All I know is that when Grace is around, my head is clearer. I can concentrate on something else besides my rage and need to kill something." He took a deep breath and rolled his head from side to side. "It's like she's some kind of sedative."
Sam huffed, as predicted. "In the mean time, what are you going to do? Just forget everything you have been harping on for the last ten years? Saving people, hunting things? The family business?" Sam stood and walked towards the living room. "The very thing that you said was more important that anything I was doing at school?" He ran his hands through his hair, pushing it back as much as he could. "The reason I lost Jess?"
Dean looked up, eyeing his brother carefully. "Is that what this is about? Jess?"
"What if it is?"
Very slowly, Dean stood to his full height and came around the counter to face Sam. "Are you blaming me for Jessica?" Sam closed his mouth, staying silent. Dean pressed harder, "Are you, Sam? Because if that's the case, I think you might want to rethink your next few sentences."
I stood at the top of the stairs, listening intently for what was happening in the living room. I had no idea who Jessica was, but I knew that obviously, Sam had loved her and she had been lost somewhere along the way. The boys were silently staring each other down and momentarily, I wondered what I could do if they started to fight. I revisited a few of Dean's memories in my head: Dean chasing Sam through the halls of the BatCave with an ax. Sam hiding in the electrical room. Castiel holding Dean back, animal roars, fighting back. I knew there was no way to control Sam, but maybe, just maybe, I would be able to call Dean back from the edge, if it came to that. I had the feeling that Dean knew I was listening because he was doing everything in his power not to rage on Sam. It could have been something as simple as the love he had for his brother, but either way, I knew they were entering dangerous territory.
Sam spoke, so quietly I could barely hear him. "I don't blame you for Jessica." He paused, choosing his words carefully, "I just don't see how it's fair that you can drop everything you're doing for a girl, but when I had one, you show up at my doorstep and tell me to drop everything I was doing for hunting. For Dad. I left everything at Stanford. My friends, my girlfriend, my law degree. My life. I left it all for you, because you asked me to. Because family is all that mattered."
There was silence creeping across the floors and up the stairs. The air was heavy as Dean decided what to say. "Sammy, I can't take it back. I can't begin to understand how it was for you. I didn't know." Dean paused, taking a deep breath. "I didn't have anyone else. You and Dad were it. And until two days ago, you were still all I had. You are the only family I've got." Dean took a shaky breath, "The closest I got to extending any kind of family was Lisa and Ben, and you remember how that turned out. Lisa was just a band-aid—you were gone, Sam. I had nothing." Dean was moving; his voice traveled slightly as he did so. "Grace is my second chance to have something normal."
Sam seemed to be battling with what to say next. "That's what I thought I had with Amelia!" Sam's reserve was broken. His voice was higher and emotional, "You were gone, too! Purgatory! I had my second chance!"
"That wasn't my fault!" Dean interrupted. "Whatever you and Amelia had was jaded from the beginning anyway because she was married!"
Sam raised his voice. The louder he got, the more worried I became. Almost shouting, he said, "How was I supposed to know her husband wasn't dead! She thought he was dead! She would have picked me!"
"Damn it, Sammy," Dean shouted back. "What do you want me to say? I'm sorry your girlfriend was married and that she picked the other guy? I'm sorry that I don't want to hunt into my seventies?" Dean slammed his hand on the countertop, "I'm sorry for the last ten years! I'm sorry Dad was an obsessed madman and that I turned out just like him! I'm sorry I dragged you away from Stanford! I'm sorry Jessica's dead!" Silence rang out through the living room. I could hear Dean breathing hard, struggling to stay in control. "Please, Sammy. Don't fuck this up for me. Please let me have a chance to be happy."
I turned and crept down the hall towards my bedroom. I didn't want to invade any more of Dean and Sam's argument. I knew they were passed the point of any violence, so I felt it was safe to disappear. I didn't click my door shut, worried that they would know I had been eavesdropping.
The brothers faced each other, emotional. Sam broke eye contact, looking down at his bare feet. Dean took the chance to continue, "I would never abandon you, Sammy, but you've gotta see what I see; I feel whole when I'm with her, Sam. It's the first time I've ever felt that way."
Nodding, Sam wiped his face with his sleeve. "I know, Dean. I've seen you with her." He sighed and sat down on the couch behind him. "You come alive."
Dean nodded too, turning away from Sam and heading back to the kitchen. His arm burned with the anger that surged through The Mark. He held the counter edge, concentrating on Grace's face, her smile. Willing the pain from his body, he filled his coffee cup with cold water from the sink. Finishing it and filling it again, Dean began to calm. Pain still rang through the bones and muscles of his arm, but he was still in control.
From the couch, Sam watched Dean intently, waiting for any sign that he needed to intervene. Dean seemed in control, though, so Sam remained motionless. Quietly, he finally spoke again. "What happens if it doesn't work? What happens if she realizes that she doesn't want to be with you?" Sam knew he was pushing the boundary, but it needed to be discussed. "What happens if I've already gone back to school or started a job that I actually enjoy and get paid for? What happens if I make a life for myself and you two break up?"
Dean had considered this already. After their shower last night, Dean lay awake, running through all of their relationship possibilities in his head while listening to Grace breathe. Every time he finished a scenario in his head, he would glance over at his sleeping beauty and every time, he ended up thinking that there was no possible scenario in which they didn't end up together. "I know it sounds crazy, Sammy, but I can't remember what life was like before I met her."
"You have to be realistic, Dean."
"I am," he said, anger flaring again, "but if you want me to say it, I'll say it. If it doesn't work with Grace," he took a deep breath, "I'll figure it out."
"And if you're not hunting anymore," Sam pressed on, "What are you doing with all your free time?"
"I'll go legit." Dean answered, "She's a teacher, so really, I'll have to." He rubbed his face. "I was in construction when I was with Lisa. Maybe I can go back to that."
Sam shook his head, saying, "You're not a contractor, Dean."
"What do you want me to say, Sam? What do you think I should do?"
Taking a deep breath, Sam shook his head again, "I don't know, Dean. That's why I asked."
It had been almost an hour since the Winchester boys began their discussion. I sat, perched on my bed, waiting for Dean to find me. I had been thinking about the possibilities of our relationship as the boys ran through their doubts about me. If Dean remained a hunter, which I felt was more likely than not, I wasn't sure what our future would hold. I had to go back to work in a week and a half; Winter Break was halfway over, and my life would continue as it had for the last three years. I was happy in the classroom, saving people through education and compassion, not hunting the things that go bump in the night. I was unsure what Dean would be happy with. I knew he enjoyed being a hunter, but at the same time, it exhausted him. He had been at it for so long already. Other hunters didn't even live this long.
I began picturing a normal life for the two of us; lawn mowing, HOAs, Honey-Do Lists, and housekeeping. Being domestic didn't seem like Dean at all. How could I ask Dean to give it all up and be with me? How could I cage the free bird?
Dean's footsteps came up the stairwell, slower than I expected. The top step creaked as always, but Dean hesitated before continuing down the hall towards my room. What came out of their argument? Had Sam convinced him that he didn't belong in rural Kansas? That he had no place in a regular relationship?
Fear gripped me as he pushed the door open. I worried that once he started talking, I wouldn't be able to hold it together, so I started talking first. "Dean, I get it. If you need to go, go. Just don't lead me on."
"Do you hear yourself?" He said, sitting next to me on the bed. "You sound pathetic."
I laughed then, embarrassed and hid my face. "I don't want to be that typical female," I said from behind my hands. "I don't want to be that girl that cages the bird."
Dean sighed. "I know, Gracie. You're not. This is my decision."
He looked at me, his freckles lit by the sunlight that came in my window. "To be with you. To be here." Taking my hand, he let the flashes finish before he continued. "I haven't figured out what I'm gonna do with all this free time that I'll have, being here with you, but I'm sure I'll figure something out." Dean smiled then, a relaxed genuine smile. The corners of his eyes crinkled and he put his arm around me, kissing the side of my head. "I honestly never thought I'd live this long."
I looked up at him, pain behind what he said, but also, the truth. "Are you and Sam okay?"
"We will be," he responded simply. "How much did you listen to?"
I smiled lightly, caught red handed. "Enough. I just lingered to make sure you wouldn't kill each other." I sighed and held his hand with both of my own. "I heard you talk about Jessica and Amelia. And Lisa and Ben." I glanced at him, testing the waters. "I could figure out on my own who Jessica and Amelia were." I hesitated, "but who are Lisa and Ben?"
Dean stared at his hand wrapped in mine. "Lisa was someone I used as a crutch to put my life back together after I thought Sam had died. It was right after the whole thing with Lucifer…I watched Sam take Lucifer into The Cage, back into Hell…" he shook his head at the memory, "I had nothing after that." He sighed, his eyes closing. "I went to Lisa because she knew who we were and what we are. She let me figure my life out."
"He's her kid." Dean glanced at me, gauging my reaction. "Not mine."
I could tell that it almost pained Dean to admit that. I pushed just a little farther. "But you wanted him to be."
Nodding slowly, Dean again looked down at his feet. "I saw him as almost a legacy…a way to leave a little piece of myself behind. I figured I would never get another chance." He rolled his head back and popped his neck; "I never pictured myself as a dad." Chancing a look at me, he smiled lightly, "Ben made me one. For a little while at least."
"Why didn't it work?" I asked, adjusting my position on the bed.
I could tell this was something that no one had ever asked Dean. He took a long time to answer, mulling the question over in his head countless times. "We were happy, or at least, she was, for a long time. Over a year. I was still recovering from losing Sam and I was just never… there. I went through the motions, but it wasn't something I chose. I wasn't really committed because if was out of necessity, not desire." Dropping my hand gently, he got up from the bed and paced around the room slowly, taking in pictures and knick-knacks that were scattered over the walls of my bedroom. "As soon as I figured out that Sam was alive, I couldn't wait to get back out there, doing what we did best." He smiled, looking at a photo of Serendipity and I. "Saving people, hunting things, the family business."
I understood the difference now, between his past relationship with Lisa and his current one with me. He had been in control of what happened next. That night in the bar, he could have chosen to go home without talking any more to me. He could have easily not called me the next day and I could have just continued along the same path that I had been on for the last few years. It was the main reason he was fighting so hard with Sam to make him understand. This wasn't a situation that had been thrust upon Dean…he was able to make the choices and decide what was next.
Dean had picked me.
"So what now?" I asked, still sitting on the bed. I watched him pick up a picture of my parents. He held it by the frame with one hand and glanced at me, comparing my face to my parents'.
Dean shrugged as he put the frame back on my dresser. "We can do whatever you want. Personally, I want to eat, so if your decision could involve something with food, that would be great."
I grinned at Dean, at the normalcy of our conversation and the ease at which we exchanged dialog. We had met two days ago, but it seemed like we had already been together for years. "There's food downstairs. We could make meatloaf or something."
"You don't like meatloaf?"
Dean made a face and tilted his head. "No girl has ever offered to make a meatloaf for me before." He paused, "It seems so ordinary and adorable."
I walked out of the room, Dean following behind. "It surprises me that you use the word 'adorable.' It doesn't exactly seem like a word a big, bad hunter would use."
He shrugged, sidestepping the red stain on the carpet again. "I think I'm adorable."
I turned, looking at him with my eyebrows up. "What about me?"
Dean shrugged as I started down the steps ahead of him. "I guess you're cute, too."
Serra came home to Dean and I asleep on the couch, comfy after having meatloaf in our pajamas. She walked in, saw us and closed the front door harder than she needed to. I woke up, startled, looking around to see Serra grinning at me in an awkward, goofy way. I looked down at Dean, expecting him to still be asleep, but his green eyes stared back up at me. "How long have you been awake?"
"Since I heard her keys in the door," he answered, pulling his arm out from underneath me. He pulled my hair back from my face and grinned at Serra and asked, "have a nice day at school, dear?"
Serra walked passed us and dropped her back at the foot of the couch. Not leaving out the sarcasm in her voice, she responded to Dean. "It was great, Dad. I made up the final I missed."
I sat all the way up, looking around for Sam. He had been down here watching Rocky with us, but the credits rolled and Sam was nowhere to be found. I listened; I heard the water on upstairs. He must be taking a shower.
Glancing around, Serendipity raised her eyebrows accusingly. "You had meatloaf without me?"
I got up from the couch and walked to the kitchen, opening the microwave. "I saved you some, you big baby." Serra smiled and looked towards Dean, who was still lying on the couch, mouthing the words to "Gonna Fly Now" as the credits continued up the screen.
She looked back at me and lowered her voice. "So are you two a hot item, now?"
I smiled, leaning towards my sister. "He and Sam had this huge blowout about if he was going to keep hunting or not. They're okay now, but I guess Sam brought up how Dean dragged him into hunting and how Dean was being selfish about wanting to choose me," I stopped talking, seeing Dean turn his head towards me. He knew we were talking about him. "Anyway, I whispered, he and Sam are just gonna concentrate on finding out how to get rid of The Mark."
Serra grinned, taking a bite of cold meatloaf. "You are the luckiest little tramp in the world, Gracie. So what, now? You two are just going to head towards domestication and pay taxes together?"
I shrugged. "I don't know, but I wouldn't mind."
We both looked at Dean again. From the couch, he raised his eyebrows. "Can you guys talk louder? I can't hear you from over here."
I giggled as Sam came down the stairs, his hair still wet from his shower. He had his old clothes on again, but he was carrying the flannel he had been wearing. Standing at the base of the steps, he turned to Serra and smiled. "Hey."
Serra got a flirtatious look in her eye. "Hi."
He smiled again and turned to Dean. "I'm gonna go home and take a nap. Maybe give some people a call, see if they can help point us in the right direction when it comes to getting The Mark off of you."
Dean rubbed his face and sat up, business taking over. "Yeah, alright. I'll probably follow soon. I need some clean clothes." He looked up at me and raised his eyebrows, questioning me, "What are your plans today?"
I shrugged. "Laundry. Cleaning up the rest of the mess from the other night." I sighed. "Cutting out that blood stain from the carpet upstairs."
Sam headed to the door, putting on his boots and grabbing the El Camino's keys. He glanced up and smiled. "I'll see you later, guys."
"Bye, Sam," I said, but was interrupted by Serra, who was just a little too loud, "Bye, Sammy!" I shook my head towards Dean, no explanation necessary. My sister was hooked on Dean's brother.
He smiled as he got up and padded towards Sam. "I'll be home in a bit." Sam nodded and turned towards the door as Dean continued, "If you hear from Cas, let me know."
"Will do," and Sam closed the door as he left.
Dean stood and headed towards me in the kitchen. He took my hand and I waited for the flashes, but he had projected nothingness to me again. I looked up to his face and smiled. "That projection, I'll take."
He smiled lightly, looking tired and worn, kissing my forehead. "I'm gonna head back too, change my clothes and do some reading."
"You okay?" I asked, squeezing his hand.
Nodding, Dean squeezed back, "Yeah, I'm fine," he was saying and already, I knew he was lying. "I'm gonna go try and get in contact with Cas and figure out what to do about this." He held out his arm to emphasize The Mark. "I'll call you later."
I watched him walk across the room after dropping my hand. Serra and I exchanged glances. She put her hands up, Keep me out of this, she seemed to say, grabbed her plate of meatloaf and headed upstairs. I watched her go and waited for her bedroom door to close before continuing.
"What's the matter with you?" I asked, following him into the living room, "You said you wouldn't lie to me."
Dean turned, defensive, but after meeting my eyes, he looked defeated. "Old habits," he said, "I'm restless. Now that I've said that I don't want to hunt full time with Sammy, that part of my brain went into overdrive and it's all I can think about."
"You don't have to quit hunting for me, Dean," I was saying before I really wanted to, "I don't want to change you. I just want to make sure you come back alive."
Dean nodded at me and smiled. "I know, and I probably will take some close-to-home jobs to keep it interesting, but I really need to figure out how to get rid of this." He took a deep breath, kissing me again, (no flashes this time) "and I think Cas can help. I need to get him to help me."
I agreed. "Good. I'll talk to you later then?"
"Definitely," he said, picking up his rucksack and slinging it onto his shoulder. "See you later, Serra!" He called up the stairs, then, lowering his voice again, he smiled and winked at me, "bye, gorgeous."
I opened the door and he walked out into the cold, blustery day, barefoot, carrying his boots. With a last look, he dumped his bag into the trunk, got in and sped away. I closed the door, smiling like an idiot. I was hooked.
The next few weeks came uneventfully, each of us falling into a routine of having meals together as a couple, or with Sam and Serra at the house, watching movies and reading, looking for lore about The Mark of Cain at the BatCave. We were together most of the time and when we were alone as a couple, deep into the night, we always ended up wrapped in each other. I couldn't get enough of him; Dean was addicting. Every time we made love, it was more passionate than the last; the entirety of our beings fused in some sort of cosmic way. Somewhere along the way, my school vacation ended, and I returned to my classroom, hating to leave his side from my bed. Routine took me; I was gone most of the day, but every time I returned, Dean was there, either cooking dinner, reading, or hanging out with Sam and Serra, who had yet to become a couple, but Dean and I refused to give up hope that Sam would eventually cave to Serendipity's advances.
Castiel had become a part of our routine as well. Cas and I had met for the first time one night after Dean and I had spent most of the dark sweaty and exhilarated. He showed up in his suit and trench coat outside of my bedroom door, scaring the holy hell out of me. Dean had been at my side before I had finished reacting, ready to pounce on whatever was waiting outside of my door. He had laughed when he figured out it was Cas, and Castiel simply stared at me, waiting for an explanation.
Weeks turned into months and more and more, Dean and I moved and worked as one. We had been together over three months when it happened.
Dean was handing me a full cup of coffee as he drank his own, perched on the countertop, discussing another option for getting rid of The Mark of Cain. Sam, Dean, and Castiel had been in deep, quiet conversation and I broke their concentration by dropping my mug of coffee and freezing in place.
"Grace?" Dean yelled, coming to my side, avoiding the pool of hot coffee on the kitchen floor. I hadn't heard him.
"So that's just it, I said, if you had graded what we turned in weeks ago, you wouldn't have to offer us extra credit!" Serra said, holding her purse on one arm and her coffee cup in the other, "I couldn't believe the audacity of this professor!"
I smiled at my sister. She always seemed to be able to tell people exactly what she thought. I heard a snap behind us, and I turned, expecting to see an animal in the brush behind us, past the line of trees. Instead, I was staring at a man, closer than seemed possible. No one is ever able to sneak up on us as he did. I hesitated because I had seen his face before, I just couldn't place when. He rushed us then, pushing Serra aside with one of his gigantic arms. He caught my left wrist as I swung at him with my right, full fist, towards his throat. He kicked my legs out from under meme, knocking me down, forcing me to drop my purse. Serra yelled something but I couldn't make out what she said. She reached for my purse and tried to grab for my .38 special that I kept hidden. He kicked it away from her, sending it flying into the forest behind us. I couldn't believe the size and strength of the man as he attacked us. He had such a tight grip on my left wrist that I swore I could feel the bones in my arm pop.
Serra had gotten up from the ground, holding her four-inch switchblade towards the attacker. She lunged at him, swinging at his face and legs as he rolled out of the way. He still gripped my arm as I reached for Serra's other blade, stashed in her fallen purse. He stood, turning on Serra and hit her across the back of the head with a large stone he had picked up from the ground. She hit the ground awkwardly, knocked out, and yelling to Serendipity, I kicked him as hard as I could and tried again to make him release my arm. He hit me then, my world going dark.
I blinked, coming back to the kitchen and Dean held me by the shoulders, his face close to mine. Castiel stood behind him, worry spread across the unshaven exhaustion of his face. Dean, realizing that I had come back, held my shoulders tighter and pulled me into a sitting position on the bar stool behind me. Sam was running upstairs to get Serendipity, I heard pounding on her door and shock as he pulled her out of bed.
"What did you see?" Dean asked, steadying me on the stool. I had broken out in a sweat; my forehead glistened with anxiety from my vision. "Baby, what? You were gone almost twenty seconds."
I was still shaken, flashes running through my mind of the attack. The man's face swam in my vision and I couldn't get words out. My breathing was heavy and my eyes searched for Serra, the reality of the attack very vivid. She came thundering down the steps, Sam close behind her and suddenly, everyone in the kitchen was staring at me. "Back off, guys. Let her breathe," Serendipity said, coming to my aid. The boys had never seen me experience a full vision before and only Serra knew what to expect. I would not be able to form cohesive sentences for another minute or two.
Castiel came forward then, his palm extended towards my head. He stepped to Dean's side and touched me gently. I had learned after I was introduced to him that Castiel's memories did not flash through my head as they did from humans. Apparently, angels had some sort of psychic immunity, because Castiel was still a blank slate to me. He made contact then; his cool hand was soothing to my feverish skin. He closed his eyes and watched my vision move through his mind. A few seconds later, Castiel opened his blue eyes and glanced, worried, at Dean.
"What, Cas?" Dean pleaded, his eyes full of concern. "What did she see?"
Castiel addressed the kitchen then, turning and moving away from me to give me space. I felt claustrophobic and seeing my thoughts and feelings, Cas knew the best thing for me was to give me space. Not since the rougarou attack had I experienced a vision, and even that one hadn't been as vivid or surprising as this one.
The others did the same, Sam and Serra took a step away and Dean sat on the stool next to me. Castiel took a breath and said, "Grace and Serendipity were attacked by a man," he began, his voice just as deep and authoritative as it was on the first night we met, "he comes up from behind the girls while they walked home one night, just houses down from this one. Grace hears a noise and the man is behind her and attacking them before she has time to react."
I could almost hear Dean's jaw clench, his teeth grinding together as Castiel described my vision in perfect detail. "Both Serendipity and Grace fight back. The attacker breaks Grace's left wrist and hits Serendipity over the head with a stone from the ground." I winced as I pictured both of the scenes. "He then hits Grace with the same stone and drags her towards the tree line."
Serra moved towards me then, her eyes wide with concern. "Attacked? By who? Do you recognize him?"
I shook my head, starting to get the feeling back into my hands. "No. In the real time of the vision, I seem to spark some sort of visual memory, like I've seen him before, but right now? No. He doesn't look familiar."
Dean stood and paced around the room. I knew he would be furious; Serra and I being attacked by a monster was one thing, but having a human attack us was something completely different. His breathing increased and he clenched his fists. Sam bent to quietly begin cleaning up my broken coffee mug and spilled coffee from the ground with a towel, just trying to stay as invisible as he could.
From across the kitchen, Dean glanced towards us and asked, anger flaring in his deep voice, "Do you have any idea when it happens?"
I shook my head. I never really knew when my visions would play out. There were very few environmental cues that I could take from the vision itself. We were dressed in flannels and jeans, as per usual around this time of the year. It was dark, but that didn't say much, considering the sun was setting around seven. We had coffee in our hands and we had been talking about school. Maybe we had been at the coffee shop up the street before we walked home. I shook my head again. "No, there's nothing that I can see that would tell us when it happens." I took a shaky breath. "It could be tomorrow, it could be two months from now."
This information set Dean over the edge. He turned and stormed out of the kitchen, heading for the front door. He slammed it behind him and I knew, just from experience, that his anger was not directed at me or my vision, but instead, towards the lack of control he had over my vision's future. The Mark began to take over; there was an attacker that threatened me. Dean and The Mark had already declared war.
Castiel bent to help Sam clean up the rest of the coffee spill and Serra put her hand on my arm. Her flashes began: cleaning her bedroom, putting clothes away in her dresser. Laughing with me at a movie we were watching with Sam and Dean. Sam approaching her and stroking her hair out of her face, closing her bedroom door as Sam bent to kiss her.
I gasped as I came out of her brain. I stared at her, eyes wide at this new development. "You and Sam?" I whispered, leaning towards her, the attacker vision momentarily forgotten, "when did that happen?!"
"Oh, shit," she said, taking her hand from my arm. "I was hoping you wouldn't see that. I was trying to project to you. I guess I haven't mastered that one yet, huh?"
I smacked her shoulder, "I can't believe you didn't tell me," I said, a little too loud. Sam and Castiel glanced back towards us, sitting at the bar. I lowered my voice and tilted my head towards her, "When?"
"About a week ago," she said, smiling. "Honestly, I don't know if we're going for it. We seem to be just playing it aloof right now." Her eyes shot up to glance at Dean's brother, "but he spent the night again last night."
I smiled. My sister was practically vibrating. I could tell that keeping this a secret had been difficult for her, but I guessed that Sam wasn't ready to have his brother know just yet.
I heard the Impala start up in the driveway outside. She was revved a few times, roar of the engine echoing against the garage door, sounding louder that she should have. Dean must have put her into reverse, because they peeled rubber as he backed out of the driveway. The engine died away as Dean left the neighborhood. Every once and awhile, the anger and pressure of The Mark was too much for him. The best thing he could do was drive away from us, no explanation necessary. Our safety was Dean's biggest worry. I had no idea where he was headed, but he would be back later that night, silently begging forgiveness as he would climb into bed with me. It happened infrequently, but often enough that I didn't even question the behavior.
It upset me that a human had attacked us. Demons, monsters and the like, I understood. Evil had an easy explanation, but humans were supposed to be kind-hearted and good-natured to each other. The man was obviously human, fighting with fists and legs, not fangs and claws. He had followed us from somewhere, quietly enough that neither my sister nor I had noticed him approach. It frightened me.
Castiel looked worried as well, which also concerned me. I didn't know very much about Castiel yet, but it seemed to me that he had a touch of psychic ability as well. Maybe angels came equipped with the kind of brain that allows them to see past what I had experienced in my vision. Either way, I didn't like it.
I got ready for work, pouring myself another cup of coffee and taking it with me on the road. As I got to school, I got a text message from Dean, "I'm down the street."
I looked up from my phone and sure enough, I could see the black hood of the Impala peeking over the hill down the street from the elementary school where I taught. I set my purse on the roof of my car and pulled up Dean's phone number. Dialing, I stared towards the Impala.
"You're blowing my cover," his deep voice came over the speaker, answering on the first ring.
"Why are you under cover?" I asked, smiling. He didn't sound angry or emotional anymore. He had taken enough time to calm down before he followed me to work.
Dean sighed into the receiver. "You're stuck with me, honey. You're rubber and I'm glue."
I picked up my purse and headed for the entrance of the school, still keeping the phone pressed in between my ear and my shoulder. "You're going to follow me everywhere I go? For how long?"
Chuckling, Dean answered slowly, "For as long as it takes."
I knew he was completely serious. I also knew that it didn't matter that my vision took place during the night; Dean would do everything to find the man that had attacked us in my vision before it happened. I knew he would be looking for anyone that seemed to be watching the house or the school. I pitied him if Dean found him first.
"Okay then, Super Spy," I said, smiling. "Keep an eagle eye."
"You know it," Dean said, clicking his phone off. My phone hung up in response and I tossed it into my purse. Heading inside, I took a deep breath. I knew I was safe at the school, but honestly, the man that attacked us could be anyone.
My day passed uneventfully and I headed to my car right after school. I glanced to where I had seen Dean earlier that day, but the Impala was gone. I looked up and down the street, but couldn't see him. Shrugging, I got in, started my car and headed for home.
About half way home, I could see Dean in the Impala about four cars back from mine. He had hidden himself well. At the red light, I picked up my phone and dialed Dean's number again. He picked up on the first ring. "At least you're observant," he said, smiling.
"I wasn't that terrible of a hunter in my day," I answered. "I want some coffee. I'm gonna stop at the store down the street. Don't freak out."
I could hear him smile. "I'm still gonna follow you into the lot."
The light turned green and we continued to flirt over the phone. I pulled into the liquor store parking lot and headed inside, the Impala idling behind my car. "You want anything, stranger?" I said into the phone as I walked past him, flipping my hair as I walked by.
He leaned out the window and whistled at me. "I want it all, baby doll."
I held the phone between my ear and shoulder again as I opened the door. "I'm hanging up now," I said, smiling. "I'll deal with you when we get home."
He purred into the phone as I hung up. I could feel Dean's eyes on me through the glass of the convenient store's windows. He watched as I grabbed a coffee cup from the self-service bar and he tracked me through the store as I held the button for the latte I chose. Finally, I waited in line to pay, using the counter top to press a lid to the top of the cup. Behind me, I felt a large man brush passed me, startling me into dropping the lid to my cup. He moved silently; it was hard to sneak up on me and shocking, considering his size. He towered over me and outweighed me by at least two hundred pounds. I heard him apologize to me; his voice was low and hoarse. He and I bent to pick up the lid at the same time and his hand touched mine. The second before I started getting flashes, I had enough time to think how cold and clammy his hands seemed. I was shoved into someone else's brain and the images followed immediately after: me reaching up to kiss Dean, rain dripping onto a car window, watching from a distance. Serra closing the curtains in the front windows of the house. My elementary school students and I walking in line towards the cafeteria, again, he watched from a distance. My silhouette from my bedroom, curtains closed, taking off a shirt.
I came back and was immediately on high alert, my senses being thrown into overdrive. The man that stood next to me was stalking us. Like usual, the flashes happened fast enough that he hadn't noticed that I had seen anything, or that I had changed in any way. He was handing me the lid to my coffee cup as I took an involuntary step backwards. "Thank you," I found myself saying, looking him in the face for the first time. I barely held it together as the large man from my vision stood before me and smiled.
I turned, slowly, back to the cashier and took the five dollar bill out of my wallet. Handing it to the cashier, it took everything I was not to turn tail and run out of the door. As he handed me my change, I twisted and walked as calmly out the doors as I could. I could feel the man's eyes on me as I left. I felt dirty, exposed; he had watched me with Dean, he had seen me undress. He knew where I worked and where I lived. He must know my patterns well enough; these days I was a very predictable person.
I made eye contact with Dean and hurled myself towards the Impala. He could sense something was wrong, sitting up and furrowing his eyebrows. I got close enough to the car that I whispered, "He's in there, Dean. He touched me. I saw…he's been watching the house. He's seen us…together, and he's watched me undress." Dean was taking the keys out of the ignition and preparing for a fight, "Wait!" I held out my hands and shook my head, "wait, wait. What are you going to do? You can't go after him right now! It's the middle of the fucking day," I held the door shut, he grunted, gritting his teeth, "no, Dean. No." He finally seemed to relent, trying to look behind me, back into the store.
"Which one?" he said, his jaw set, pissed. I didn't turn around, but watched the store in the reflection of the Impala's side window.
"He was behind me in line." I paused, my skin crawling from our interaction, "He's big, really big. Real scruffy, dirty looking hair, wearing jeans, boots, and a black union jacket."
Dean watched carefully as I stood, appearing to simply have a conversation with him. I blocked his direct line with the liquor store, concealing his face from the man that attacked me in my vision. Dean tensed, suddenly, locking onto my stalker. "Shit, he is huge," Dean said under his breath. "He's watching you," he continued, still glaring at the big man, getting into his truck. "Illinois plates, GMC half ton from the eighties."
"What's the plate number?" I asked, getting out my phone.
Dean rattled off the license plate number and stared as he drove away. He glanced up at me and said, "Get in your car and drive straight home." I was nodding, "Straight home, Grace, or so help me."
"I got it, Dean."
Dean was pulling out his phone, dialing as he finished his instructions to me. "When you get there, call me. I want to hear that you are in the same room as Sam and Cas."
I walked around the Impala towards my car. I beeped the alarm and got in. Dean idled forward to let me out of my parking spot, then, I drove out the opposite driveway into traffic and made the left turn towards my house, watching Dean pull out of the driveway after the truck.
I pulled into my driveway minutes later and sweat had already glazed over my forehead. I glanced around the street before getting out of my car. Grabbing my purse, I made a beeline for the door, still very aware of my surroundings. My phone was in my hand as I held the key to unlock my front door. With a whoosh of air, the front door opened, Sam pulling me inside. He was on the phone, one hand holding the phone, the other hand on my shoulder.
"She's here, Dean," he said into the phone. He listened for a few seconds and handed me the phone.
"Dean?" I asked, still breathless.
"He lives on the other side of the neighborhood, or at least, that's where he parked the truck," Dean explained, anger dripping through his voice. "He walked into the blue house on the end and hasn't come back out."
"So he's still alive?" I asked, grateful that Dean had only followed him, not killed him.
"For the moment," Dean replied, shifting in his seat, the vinyl seat squeaking as he moved.
I glanced at my audience: Serra, Sam, and Castiel all stared in my direction, waiting for the next move. "Dean, you can't kill him," I said quietly, turning from the others and dropping my bag in the kitchen, "just come home. We know where he lives and we've got his plates. Let's report him to the cops for stalking and just have him taken in."
"They're not going to make an arrest based on a woman's police report over stalking, Gracie," he was saying, still obviously watching the blue house. "They'll make a report, pat you on the head, and send you on your way." He paused and there was a scratching noise coming over the speaker; he was rubbing his face out of frustration of my naiveté. "He's still going to be out here, he's still going to know your routines. Your vision is still going to end up coming true if you don't let me do something about it."
"You're not killing him," I repeated, firmer. I looked up at Cas and Sam for help. They both shrugged. No help from the peanut gallery this time. "Dean, come home and we'll talk about what to do next," I said, finally, exasperated.
"Put Sam back on," he said, subsequently ending our conversation.
I rolled my head from side to side, popping the tension that had gathered there. I held the phone out to Sam and when he didn't take it immediately, I waggled it in front of him. "He wants to talk to you again," I said.
Taking the phone, Sam followed me into the kitchen. "I'm putting you on speaker," Sam said, holding the phone away from his face momentarily.
Once held out for everyone to hear, Dean's voice came back on over the speaker. "No. Take me off of speaker, Sam."
"Dean, come on…" Sammy started, but Dean cut him off, his voice dropping dangerously low.
"Take me off of fucking speaker phone."
Puffing air out in a sigh, Sam pressed the same button and held the phone back up to his face, turning away from us. Serra reached out for my hand in a sisterly sort of way, and I gripped her fingers, watching the flashes go by in a bemused sort of way: she watched as I swept the kitchen, making neat piles of dust on the floor. Grocery shopping late at night when we were so young, learning to live alone without our parents or Emery. Sam winking at Serra while Dean and I hugged in the kitchen.
Sam was hanging up the phone as he turned back to us. "He's staying to watch to see what this guy does in the next few hours. Our orders…" he said, sighing a little brother sigh, "are to circle the wagons and not to let Grace out of our sight. Or Serra, for that matter." Serra's hand tightened on mine when Sam said her name. He continued, exasperated. "Dean told me that he is in control, but he's not guaranteeing this guy's safety if he comes towards the house," glancing at Castiel, Sam finished, "he wants you to meet him at the guy's house to feel him out and back him up if need be." Castiel nodded curtly and walked out the door without another word.
Sam turned to us and sighed. "I guess it's just you and me, ladies."
The next few hours took an eternity. We tried to have dinner and attempted to watch TV, but kept ending up in the living room, staring into space, waiting for the phone to ring. There had been no news from Dean or Castiel and it was driving me crazy not hearing from them.
I finally couldn't take it anymore and got up from the couch, beginning a pace pattern around the bottom floor of the house. I walked from the living room around the bar and into the kitchen, opening the fridge and closing it again, ending up back in front of Sam and Serra, who sat, fingers intertwined on the couch.
Glancing up at them on my second trip around the living room, I smiled lightly, "So I guess you're official, now, huh?"
Sam chuckled quietly and looked at my sister lovingly. They had clicked into place as Dean and I had, at ease with each other. It didn't feel odd in the slightest—Dean and I were matched in much the same way as Serra and Sam were, complimentary to each other's personalities. I was the steady one, predictable, stable. Dean was the opposite, and it worked for us. Serendipity was the unstable one, always slightly unpredictable and overly emotional and Sam was the opposite, her complimentary piece.
My attention strayed when I heard the rumble of the Impala coming up the street toward the house. I turned and headed to the front door, opening it as Dean and Castiel pulled into the driveway. Neither of the boys looked happy as they climbed out of the car. Castiel glanced at me, his blue eyes refusing to meet mine. He headed into the house without a word and I was left staring at his back. I turned my attention to Dean, who looked just as unhappy. His eyebrows furrowed, his eyes glazed over in anxiety and frustration. He didn't want to meet my stare, but he did, green eyes full of panic.
"What? What happened?" I said, walking across the driveway towards him. I reached for his hand automatically, both to be comforted by his touch and to see what had happened with Castiel.
For the first time in three months, Dean pulled away from my hand, breaking eye contact with me and slamming the door to the Impala. I was shocked, alienated, and hurt. He followed Castiel into the house without a word to me and I was left, standing in the middle of the driveway, wondering what to do.
Serra met my gaze as I walked slowly back towards the front door. In my brain, I almost could hear her voice; "What happened to them? Didn't you get a chance to see?"
I shook my head at Serra in response to her facial expression. I had no idea what happened at our stalker's house, I just knew that Dean and Castiel had been through something together that had upset them in a way that I was unfamiliar with. Dean wanted to hide it from me, too, which could only mean one thing to me.
I stormed through the front door and slammed it behind me as Serra followed me in. "You killed him."
Dean glanced up at me, still taking off his leather jacket and dumping his keys on the bar. He shook his head silently, still avoiding my gaze.
"You left him to die?" I pressed, still unhappy with his refusal to look at me. "Something went down at that house, Dean. You need to tell me what." While I pushed Dean for answers, Castiel made the move to head back towards the front door, wanting nothing more than to escape. I knew I wouldn't be able to see simply by touching Cas, so he was a lost cause, but I still was far from allowing him to leave my house. "You're not going anywhere," I said firmly, directly my comment to Cas. "What the fuck happened, Castiel? Why won't either one of you even look at me?" I was shaking from fury, the full force of my anger hitting my voice. I turned to glance at Sam, "What could they be hiding?"
Sam shook his head as well, confused as I was. "It's something big," I heard, no longer looking at Sammy.
I nodded in response, "I know it is."
Serra tilted her head, "What?"
I glanced back towards my sister. "What?" I repeated, confused.
Taking a step forward, Serra said, "You said 'I know it is,' like you were answering someone," she was saying to my confusion, "No one said anything."
I was so focused on Dean; I didn't really comprehend what she was telling me. Sam had turned to me as well, smiling slightly; the corner of his mouth forced the dimple into his cheek. He took a breath, "She answered me," Sam was saying. "I thought that it was something big that Dean and Cas are hiding, and right after I thought it, she said 'I know it is.'" Sammy turned to my sister and motioned to his forehead. "She heard me."
All eyes were on me then, my emotions starting to flush my cheeks. "Don't change the subject," I spat, "I still need to know what happened."
Dean turned away from me again, his hands coming up to his face and rubbing his eyes. Castiel sighed from behind me, trying his best to get to the front door. "You are going to have to tell her," Cas was saying towards Dean, his voice deep and quiet. "She will find out eventually anyway, considering this new development. Apparently, she is beginning to hear others' thoughts."
Finally, turning to face me, Dean looked as if he wanted to cry. His eyes were glazed over and red, the worry traced through the lines on his face. My anger faded away when I saw his face, concern taking over. "What happened?" I repeated softly, moving towards Dean as slowly as I was able. "Please tell me. Or let me see."
Dean leaned on the counter, hanging his head in defeat. Without looking up, he said, "Cas can see the end of your vision."
"What do you mean," I said, turning to look at Castiel, "then end of my vision? I thought that was it."
Castiel shook his head, worry also in his eyes, "After the man hits you, I believe you black out. The vision ends for you because the point of view changes. With you being knocked out, I see the rest of the vision from Dean's point of view."
The braid of my hair whipped around because I turned my head so fast towards Dean. "Dean's point of view? He's there when it happens?"
Castiel's voice behind me continued, "I can see you on the ground, lying unconscious as Dean runs towards the man, ready to attack him. The two men fight for a few minutes, each exchanging blows, but because of this man's size, Dean has a hard time doing any damage without a weapon. Finally, the man throws Dean against one of the trees and uses the time it takes Dean to stand back up to grab the gun from your purse that was thrown into the forest, near to where you are. Dean runs to block his path to you," Cas said as I turned back to him, listening intently, "as the man fires a shot at point-blank range, the bullet goes through Dean's shoulder and into you, laying behind him."
There was a small gasp from Serendipity, standing next to me. There was silence through the rest of the house, no one even daring to breathe. "How does the bullet hit me?" I asked, confused and afraid. "If it goes through Dean's shoulder…"
Dean, still hanging his head while leaning on the bar, answered, "He's so big. The angle that he shoots…" He lifted his head, tears forming in his eyes. "The gun is pointed down at you. I just slow down the bullet."
Quietly, unwilling to hear the answer, I asked, "I die?"
Castiel shook his head, unknowing. "The vision ends before I know for sure."
Silently, Dean left the kitchen, leaving me with the rest of my family. I could hear him padding upstairs and closing my bedroom door behind him. I knew why he was so upset. When hearing my vision the first time, he had been able to be in control of the situation: follow me around, make sure that he was guarding me at all times. This new vision proved him wrong; he was there when the attack happened and he was still unable to change the outcome.
I looked over at Serra. She had tears in her eyes and held Sam's hand. "We don't know what happens, Lucky. I could be fine," I said, my voice breaking and telling the truth about how I felt. I wiped the renegade tear from my cheek and turned to face Castiel again. "I could be okay, we don't know for sure."
He nodded, knowing he was only comforting me momentarily. I was reeling from this new information. I had been having visions since I was fourteen and I had never been able to change the outcome of a future that I had seen. I had tried many times, just to see if it was possible, but the future is a destiny that we were meant to follow. One way or another, I knew that we would be attacked and I would be shot. No matter the journey, the destination would be the same.
Castiel seemed to know this and hung his head. "I would like to go back to the BatCave for awhile, if it is alright with you," he said, like a child asking permission to go home. "I understand that it must be difficult to hear the rest of the vision, but I believe that you will survive." He paused and looked up at me again, "you have to. For Dean's sake."
I took a ragged breath and looked up to the ceiling, my thoughts back to Dean. I glanced back at Castiel as I said, "Yeah, Cas, it's okay. You can go home." I started up the stairs, but hesitated, "Just please come back later so we can talk this out together?" He nodded in response, turned and was gone.
Looking towards my sister, we made eye contact and both started to tear up. That was the problem with sisters…we shared a bond through emotion and we realized together that the vision was a reality. We were both suddenly afraid and just as our parents had always said, it came true: as soon as you acknowledge the fear, it becomes real.
I broke eye contact and headed up the stairs after Dean. Sam and Serra sat on the couch, still holding hands, waiting.
Walking across the new rug in the hall, I hesitated. What would I even say to Dean? That he couldn't keep following me around? That it wouldn't matter how much he tried, I would still end up getting shot? I say something, anything, to renew the hope in Dean. I opened the door to my room and he stood at the window, back facing me, watching the trees through the sheer curtains.
I closed the door gently and crossed the room to him. He hadn't turned around, but his body language did not discourage me from reaching out to touch him. I put my hand on his arm, still touching flannel. I had no desire to see what he was thinking at the moment. Unmoving, he closed his eyes and sighed. "What are we going to do, Gracie?"
Shaking my head, I remained silent. I had no idea how to stop something like this from happening…like I said before, if I see it, it happens. Moments passed, just standing together at the window. Finally, Dean unfolded his arms and wrapped one around my shoulders, still aware of skin to skin contact. He wasn't ready to share his thoughts yet, and I could understand why. He kissed the top of my head and held me close, the warmth from his body coming through my sweatshirt.
"It's just a bullet wound," I said, trying to smile, "I've been shot before."
"It's a gut shot, Grace." He looked down at me, moving slightly so that he could see my face, "From what Cas told me, it's bad." He continued to gaze at me, seemingly holding back. What he wasn't saying, I didn't know. I wanted so badly to touch him and get a glimpse into his head, but I restrained. We had come a long way in communication and I didn't want to ruin it by forcing his hand.
Bringing his arm down, he turned me to face him. "There's got to be a way to change the path," he was saying as I shook my head, already knowing where the conversation was headed. "There has to be a way to keep you safe."
"I've never been able to change a future that I have seen, Dean," I said simply, taking a shaky breath. "I saw my dad die before it happened." I took another shaky breath, "you can bet I tried changing everything that I could to try and change what I saw. If I changed something big enough, I would just have a new vision or dream, rerouting our path with the same ending." I shrugged, "It's destiny."
Dean dropped his arms to his side and turned back to the window. "It's bullshit."
I didn't know what else to say to him, so I turned and sat on my bed, head in my hands, trying to calm down. It wasn't that big of a deal, I had been shot before and it wasn't all that bad.
"I can't lose you," I heard from my position on my bed, my head still in my hands.
"You're not going to lose me," I answered, not looking up. "I'll be fine, Dean."
He turned slowly, surprise slowly taking over his face. "What?"
"I said you're not going to lose me," I repeated, dropping my hands and looking up at him. I furrowed my eyebrows in response to the look on his face.
"I didn't say anything, Grace," he started, moving towards me. "You heard my thoughts."
"No," I started, shaking my head, "you said, 'I can't lose you,' clear as you're talking now." He sat down next to me, the first smile creeping across his face. I stared, unsmiling, "You didn't say anything."
"Great." I stood, rubbing my face. "I'm starting to hear voices now, too." I paced around the room and Dean continued to stare at me, obviously trying to send thoughts to me. I glanced his way and saw his concentration, "Stop that," I said, making a face. "Don't try and send me thoughts. It's weird."
"So you can hear me?" He asked, getting up to follow me.
"No, it was just that one time." I glanced at the photo of my parents on my dresser. If they only knew what was happening to their daughters. I glanced back up at Dean, who seemed to remember why we had been so upset in the first place. "Dean, you can't just concentrate on what may happen. I know that it's hard to do, but I almost drove myself insane trying to keep my dad safe after I saw him get killed." He sighed and rolled his eyes, walking away from me, hands on his hips, The Mark of Cain peeking out from the rolled up flannel sleeve.
I was getting frustrated again, running my hands through my hair and closing my eyes. I didn't know what else to say to him, so I lay on my bed, eyes closed, playing with my hair. From the other side of the room, Dean paced back to the window, arms crossing in front of him. I knew he wouldn't back down on wanting to be at my side every minute of the day, watchdog style, but he had to realize that we would never be able to change anything.
I could feel Dean's eyes on me, his anger slipping away. I kept my eyes closed and listened to him, his deep, comforting voice low and sweet. I don't know if you'll ever know how much you mean to me, Gracie. This is my worst fear—losing you. I am so in love with you. Dean had never used the word 'love' when talking to me or about me, and this was the fist time that I had ever heard him say the actual words. It was a milestone.
Slowly, I sat up, not wanting to ruin the moment. I had been in love with him for the last two months, but I wasn't going to be the one who said it first. I didn't want him to use it as a reflex response; it had to be his idea. I smiled gently at him and he met my gaze. He smiled back and tilted his head, "What?"
It occurred to me then that again, he didn't say anything aloud. Somehow, I was tapping into Dean's thoughts without trying, and I had heard his narration as he stared out the window. Knowing that he loved me was enough, for now, so I decided not to bring it up. "Nothing," I replied, getting up from the bed and walking to him. I reached my hand towards his face, our first contact since he and Castiel had come home. He closed his eyes as I grazed his stubble and let my hand rest on his neck, feeling his pulse quicken to my touch. Parked in front of the stalker's house, watching. Seeing Castiel describe the extended version of my vision. Watching me undress and walk towards our bed. I came back to Dean leaning towards me and almost immediately I reached up on my tiptoes to kiss him.
Suddenly, Dean was all hands, pulling me closer and reaching for the bottom of my shirt. I backed away enough for him to tug my shirt up and over my head, dropping it on the floor. I tugged at his flannel, only successfully getting one of his arms out. We both laughed, he pulled his arm out of the stubborn sleeve and we went at it again. He reached up to the curtains and pulled the shade under the sheers down without breaking contact with me. Bathed in the dim, Dean smiled seductively and guided me to the bed.
As the hour passed, we were tender and passionate, touching every part of each other. I straddled him, my hands framing his beautiful face. We moved together, his arms around my waist, putting pressure in all the right places. We rolled together; my bed was large enough to allow us to complete the move without falling off the side, as we had done many times on his tiny bed. Dean smiled at me as he pinned my arms to the bed. The muscles in his arms flexed as he leaned over me, his bare chest hot to the touch. My hips tensed, the emotion and passion that flowed through us was almost too much to bear. Dean struggled to stay quiet, biting his bottom lip as we reached ecstasy together; I buried my face in the side of his neck, breathing him in.
Opening his eyes, he smiled gently at me again, and rested on his elbow. He released his hold on my arms and I wrapped them around his shoulders. Carefully, he rolled to lie next to me, his arm supporting his head to look at me. "Why me, Gracie? Why'd you pick me?"
"Because," I answered, perfectly aware that he hadn't said it aloud, "You're supposed to be mine."
Dean took a deep, shaky breath. "What else have you heard me think, lately?"
There was a moment that I considered telling him, but I couldn't commit. Instead, I rolled towards him, nestling into his chest, trying my hardest to make time stand still. Flashes of my vision would come through my head occasionally, but I forced them away, instead filling my mind with thoughts of Dean and I.
He loves me.
The last thought I had before I drifted off to sleep was our future together, proposing with pie, and leaving the desperation and anxiety behind to follow a life of fast cars and freedom.
I was cold. I curled towards the middle of the bed, expecting Dean's body heat to warm me, but his side was empty. The sun had started to set outside my window; I had been sleeping for about three hours. I sat up and looked around the room, but Dean was gone.
I got up and rubbed my face. Getting dressed, I could hear Serra and Sam laughing in her room and it made me smile. I was happy to hear how blissful my sister sounded. For the moment, she wasn't thinking about the future and what might happen to us as a family. I knew, regardless of what may or may happen to me, my sister would be well taken care of. The Winchesters would make sure of that.
Opening my door and heading downstairs, I listened for Dean. The TV was on in the living room, so I headed towards the sound and found him laying on the couch, a beer in one hand, and a bowl of popcorn on his chest. "Hey stranger," I greeted him, taking a handful of popcorn on the way to my chair. "Did you sleep?"
He smiled his greeting, his mouth full of popcorn. Shaking his head, he chased his popcorn with a swig of his beer, "nah, I laid there for a bit and listened to you snore."
"I don't snore!" I threw a piece of popcorn at Dean. He caught it in his mouth and he grinned at me.
For months, we continued about our routines, the vision pushed to the back of my mind, but Dean still followed me to school, kept watch over the house and escorted me home in the afternoon. Castiel had taken on the job of keeping an eye on our stalker, who seemed to have slinked into the shadows, most likely aware that he had been made. Only twice had Cas followed him to our house. Both times, Castiel had called Dean to warn him that Stalker was there and both times, I had talked Dean down from killing him, forcibly pushing him away from the front door the second time, and instead had called the cops. I felt better about having the police create a paper trail on the giant man, at least when my vision finally came to light, when Dean killed him (as I knew he would), we would be able to go to court and have the case dismissed on self-defense.
We were coming around to another winter break from school, which meant that Dean and I had been together almost a year. I couldn't believe how naturally we became a family. Sammy and Serra were still wrapped up in each other as well; he had been front and center at her college graduation a few weeks ago. Since then, Serra had been hired as a candy-striping baby nurse at the local pediatric hospital. It paid well and would help her put herself through the second half of her degree program for microbiology. Sam had enrolled as at the city college, taking a few random anthropology courses and religious studies. Dean thought the idea that someone else was teaching Sammy about religion was completely ridiculous and though I agreed with Dean, I supported the idea that Sam had started back at school.
Dean had been slow in finding his own place in the routine. During the day, while I was at school, I always wondered what took up his time. The day that I finally asked him about it, he smiled, seemingly excited that I had finally asked, and said, "lemme show you."
He took my hand, grinning, and led me to the garage. Dean opened the door with a flourish, obviously very proud of what he had done. Flipping on the light switch, my sight adjusted after a moment and I stood, staring, my eyes filling with tears. "Oh, Dean," I said, hushed. "How?"
"You like it?" He said, walking over to my dad's 1971 Chevy Chevelle. It had been a rust bucket sitting on the forgotten, overgrown side of the house, full of holes and peeling paint. It barely ran, and the last time I saw it, the motor had been completely trashed, full of raccoon nests and rainwater. Dean brushed his fingers across the fresh paint: a deep metal flake purple. He pulled a set of keys out of his pocket and tossed them to me. "Merry Christmas."
I caught the keys and put them on the counter behind me. Without thinking, I walked straight to Dean, throwing my arms around him and kissing him. Eating tacos at the local diner. Watching Serra and Sammy dance together in the kitchen. Seeing me walk across the school parking lot towards my car.
"I can't believe you did this!" I said, turning back to the car. "It looks incredible. Where did you paint it?"
Dean smiled, "I took it to a one day paint shop here in town. I haven't had a paint stall since Bobby's."
Gently, I ran the tips of my fingers across the new chrome along the doorframe. My father had gotten this car decades ago with grandiose plans of rebuilding it from the ground up, but we used it as it was, rusty and beaten, for hunting instead. Serendipity and I would sit on the counters and watch as he pulled pictures out of magazines and staple them to the walls of the garage. I glanced up; most of them were still there. I wiped my face and smiled back at Dean. "This is amazing, Dean. Dad would be floored. Thank you."
"Maybe now, you won't drive that rice rocket around town anymore. It embarrasses Baby," he scolded, his grin giving him away.
"We should go out to dinner to celebrate," I said, picking up the keys from the counter again, "I'll drive."
Serra's voice came from behind the garage door, her voice filled with excitement, "Can we come in now? We're dying out here!"
"You knew about this?" I screamed, smile taking over my face. The door opened and Serra came flying through it, falling into my open arms and we were jumping and hugging and laughing. For a minute, it felt like our family was still alive, like we were still whole. The Winchester brothers stood and watched us, identical grins plastered on their faces.
Sam hit the garage door opener, letting in the last of the evening light, and, for the first time in almost ten years, I opened the door to the Chevelle. She squeaked, but it wouldn't be natural if she didn't. Serra tossed my purse over the roof of the car and I caught it as I ducked to get in. Dean opened the passenger side and pulled the front seat forward for Serra and Sammy. They climbed in and Dean let the seat fall back into position. I got in last, relishing the feel of the new, black vinyl. I put the key in the ignition and turned. The roar of the engine echoed through the garage, the rumble begging to be taken out on the open road. I threw it into reverse, almost peeling out and Serra whooped from the back seat. Dean clicked the garage door opener again and we were off, leaves blowing behind us.
Dinner was delicious. I couldn't stand the idea of staying on surface streets in the Chevelle, so as soon as I could, I got on the highway and punched it. I glanced at Dean, his eyes already on me, and grinned. We had eaten at a restaurant three towns over from ours, specializing in corn-fed sirloin where Dean and Sam had gotten the biggest cut of filet mignon the restaurant provided. Serra and I had gotten steak as well (we were good Kansas girls, after all) and driving home, we played Dean's old Boston cassette tapes as loud as the audio system would let us.
I pulled off the highway, back into our hometown and slowed to a stop at the intersection. The engine of the Chevelle skipped and Dean and I both leaned to listen. "Shit," I heard Dean whisper under his breath. "She was running fine yesterday afternoon." There was another warble and I threw it in neutral to rev the engine, trying to keep her from stalling. The light turned green and I put her back into drive, revving slowly so I didn't flood the motor.
"What did you do wrong, Dean?" Sam asked from the back seat, smiling. "Sounds like you didn't fish out all of the bird feathers."
"At the next light, lean forward, Gracie. I'm gonna push him out," he answered, only half teasing. Dean was still listening to the Chevelle. "I don't know," he was saying, mostly to himself, "maybe a fuel injector is clogged."
At the next intersection, we were only about a mile from our house. It's as if the Chevelle knew, because that's where she stalled. I tried starting her again and she sputtered and caught for about three seconds, but the skip was too much; she stalled again. I glanced at Dean and giggled. "At least she let us have dinner first."
He sighed, getting out of the car as I popped the hood. I reached for my phone, digging in my purse, intent on just calling the tow company. Usually, I was able to grab it quickly, but after a few seconds of pulling random items out of my bag, I decided that my phone was still hooked to the charger in my bedroom. I turned to Serra and Sam, "Will one of you call the tow truck?"
Serra shrugged her shoulders. "My wallet and my knife are the only things I have with me." She turned to Sam as he pulled out his phone. "Sam's got his, though…" she looked at him, fading off at his expression. "What's wrong, Sammy?"
"I have about thirty messages from Cas," he said, holding his phone to his ear. We watched intently as Dean fooled with the Chevelle's engine.
"What?" I asked, the anxiety seeping back into my bones, forgotten over months of bliss. Sam held up a finger and listened to his messages.
Finally, he brought the phone down from his face and quietly, he said, "Stalker hasn't been home all day. Cas thinks he's near the house, but can't find him." Sam pounded on the glass of his window to get Dean's attention. "Dean!"
He looked up from around the hood of the Chevelle and Sam held up his phone to gesture. Dean caught the hint immediately, taking his phone out from his pocket and looking at the screen. He must have had messages from Cas as well; he listened momentarily and walked to my side of the car. Dean was already on edge, glancing behind him while he stood, talking quietly. "I want you staying in this car. Sam, call the tow truck and wait here."
"Wait, where are you going?" I said to Dean, sitting up in my seat a little straighter. "Don't go by yourself."
"It's not me I'm worried about, honey," he said, kissing my hair and turning to walk towards the sidewalk. Sam was dialing the tow truck and I watched as Dean did a perimeter check. He didn't go far and he glanced back at me reassuringly every few minutes. He and I knew what was coming. This was the night of my vision, coming to life. After all these months of waiting and forgetting, here it was, playing out step by step.
Serendipity was breathing harder from the back seat, nervous. "Maybe this isn't it," she was saying, "maybe it's just a false alarm?"
Sam was already shaking his head, "no, this is it. This car has run smoothly for the last two months. He's had it out almost every day since he got the spark plugs in. There's no way this was accidental." Sammy took a deep breath, "Dean and Cas had a theory a few months back about Stalker being some sort of mechanic…he's got car parts scattered all over his backyard. I'll bet you he sabotaged the Chevelle to set us up tonight."
Dean headed back towards us, his hand on his gun, unwilling to pull it from its holster. He walked back to the driver's side door and leaned down to talk quietly. "There's no car or truck parked anywhere up or down the street. Unless he's in the trees, I don't know if he's here yet." Dean leaned towards me and lowered his voice. "Are you ready for this?"
I nodded. What else could I do? "I guess. It's not like I'm looking forward to getting shot," I said. Staring up into Dean's eyes, I searched for the words, "Don't lose control."
"I know, Grace. I've got it." He smiled lightly at me, bending to kiss me. "I love you."
I pulled back slightly after our kiss and smiled, "It doesn't count until you say it out loud."
Standing up to his full height, Dean smiled roguishly. "I know," he said. There was a sound of a diesel truck coming off the highway. We all turned to look: the tow truck was here. Dean turned to face the headlights coming in and tilted his head slightly. "Fuck."
Sam was pushing the seat forward, climbing over Serra and pulling himself out of the Chevelle in seconds. "Where?" he was saying, pulling his gun and holding it down, out of sight.
Scenes came together in my head and at that moment I realized that it was a set up from the beginning. We were from a small town in rural Kansas. There was only one tow yard and one tow company. Flashes of memories ran through my brain as it occurred to me where I had seen the emblem of the tow company now: on the back window of Stalker's late eighties GMC truck.
"Lucky," I found myself saying, feeling trapped. Claustrophobic. "I don't want to stay here."
She was shaking her head and ignored me. "Grace, this isn't what you described," she was saying, "we were walking with coffee in our hands!"
Suddenly, I understood what had happened. "Dean changed the path," I said, sweat beginning to bead on my forehead. "He made it too hard to get us on our own."
The tow truck had its hi-beams on, blinding light shining into the Chevelle's windows. Serra sounded afraid, "Why didn't you have another vision?" she said, turning in her seat to see the tow truck.
"Because the ending is the same," I said, simply.
As the tow truck pulled up, Dean and Sam were ready for a fight. I felt completely useless; I had stopped carrying my gun months ago (especially while at school) and Serra didn't even have her purse. There was almost always an extra blade hidden there, and now, here we were, sitting ducks in my brand new, rebuilt '71 Chevelle.
Stalker got out of the tow truck slowly, apparently not expecting Dean and Sam to be the ones greeting him. I had forgotten how large he was; he towered over the brothers, and outweighed both of them put together. Backing up on the vinyl seat, I used one hand to pull the door handle and push it open. With the other hand, I helped Serra climb over the front seat and slide out of the car with me. Neither one of us had a phone to call the police. I had entered full-blown panic and I struggled to keep my wits about me. Serendipity was glued to me, we moved together towards the sidewalk and the tree line. I knew my future, but maybe I could still get my sister to safety.
We backed up silently, keeping our eyes on the exchange between the boys and Stalker. I whispered to Serra, "We're going into the forest, Lucky. When we hit the trees, run." She nodded next to me. I was just hoping that Dean would know what to do when I shouted his name. "Ready?" Serendipity nodded again, her breath quickening. I stood up to my full height and braced myself. "Dean!" I shouted.
In one motion, he turned, pulled his phone from his pocket and threw it as hard as he could across the road and into my hands. I pushed Serra into action, dialing 911 on Dean's phone and putting it in my pocket and taking off into a run into the forest. I could hear two shots fired from one of the Winchester's guns as we hit the tree line.
There were shouts and more gunfire as we headed single file through the forest that surrounded our town. Our house was only about a mile away, but that's not where I planned on going. I wanted to lead the fight away from our house, so I flew towards the series of caves that lined a creek that Serra and I had played in as kids. The caves weren't deep, but they were well hidden. Maybe I could get Serra into one before Stalker found me.
I could hear the 911 operator coming from my pocket of Dean's phone. "Hello?" she was saying forcefully, "what is your emergency?"
"We're being chased by a man that's been stalking us for months!" I yelled, slowing down enough to pull the phone out of my pocket, "He attacked my boyfriend and he's trying to find me!"
Serra and I came to a clearing in the trees that I recognized from my vision. "Oh, shit," I said, "we have to get out of this clearing, Serra!"
The 911 operator asked for my name. "My name is Grace Browning. This is my boyfriend's phone." I was out of breath, turning to Serra, "we're in the forest outside of town, right off of the 70."
I heard another gunshot in the distance and I could hear Dean shout, "Grace! Run!" This was it. Stalker had gotten passed the boys and he was headed for us.
Dean faced the largest human he had ever faced. He pulled his gun and took off the safety. "Come on, man, just get back in the truck and go home. You don't want none of this."
Stalker smiled, showing ugly yellow teeth, "You don't scare me, pretty boy. She belongs with me."
"What?" Dean said, confused. "Who?"
Grinning, Stalker moved towards Sam and Dean. "Grace. She's perfect. She's mine."
Sam moved to Dean's side, ready for the fight. Being the size that he was, Stalker just seemed to amble towards the boys, not caring if they were ready to fight or not. Sam threw the first punch, his fist hitting steel as he made contact with Stalker's jaw. Sam let out a grunt of pain and Dean moved in with a punch to the gut, trying his best to stay out of Stalker's wingspan. Dean's punch didn't even slow him down. Dean looked up at the large, ugly man, and sighed. "Shit," he murmured under his breath. Both boys backed up and armed themselves. "Stop, man, just stop!" Dean yelled, pointing his gun at the stalker. "I don't want to kill you, but I will if I have to."
"Move," Stalker said, pushing Sam bodily out of the way. Dean fired his first shot and hit him in the shoulder. The nine-millimeter didn't even slow him down. Dean fired again, hitting him in the neck, blood pulsing out of the wound. The stalker pushed passed Dean and Sam took another shot at him, hitting him in the back and in the shoulder.
Dean shook his head, throwing a look at Sam as Stalker took off in a run. It was hard for Dean to believe that he could run at all. He fired another shot as he took off running after him, taking a ragged breath, "Grace!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, "run!"
I put the phone back into my pocket with the 911 operator still on the line, begging for answers and headed back to the trees surrounding the clearing. I could hear the struggle of the fight from the boys and our stalker and I struggled to stay in control. I looked around for a weapon to fight with and found nothing. Serra and I stared at each other, searching for an idea, anything that hadn't already been thought of. I don't know why we bothered, we both knew the outcome.
I could hear Dean struggling, roaring occasionally, and just slowing down the inevitable. I could hear sirens in the distance. We were coming up on the end.
Dean and Stalker were in view now, both bleeding and starting to slow. Sam was nowhere to be seen; Serra looked around for him, panic taking hold. I couldn't help myself: I saw Dean struggling and made the move to help him, "Gracie, no!" he shouted as Stalker threw him against a tree. Serra and I lunged at him, Serra hanging from his neck, shoving a small branch into the bullet wound in his neck. Dean's gun lay on the ground behind him and I made an attempt for it. Stalker bent down, grabbing a huge stone from the earth and hit Serendipity over the head with it. She grunted and hit the ground awkwardly, knocked out. Stalker reached up to his neck, pulling out the stick and then reached for me, grabbing me by both of my shoulders. I dropped my arm, shoving his hand off of my body and threw my elbow into his face. It had no affect whatsoever. Instead, he grabbed my left arm and twisted and I felt my bones pop and I gasped in pain. He twisted me into a hold with his arm over my chest and he ripped the front of my blouse. Throwing me to the ground, he followed, bending to his knees to get to my level. I kicked at his face, using the heel of my boot to try with all my might to break is nose or shove an eye into his brain. "Grace," he muttered, lusting, "I'm in love with you, Grace."
Grabbing me by my ankles, he pulled me closer and tried ripping at my belt. I threw my right fist at him as hard as I could, fending off his advances with all my might. "Dean!" I screamed, my voice going hoarse, "Dean!"
Sirens approached the forest, but I couldn't tell which direction they were coming from. I was exhausted from the fight and kept screaming for Dean, who at the moment was unconscious on the forest floor.
The giant man once again reached for my belt, using his giant hands to push my hips to the ground, trying to hold me in place. I started to cave to the fear that strangled me; the situation almost too much for me to handle. "Stop! Fuck off!" I hit him again and again, my knuckles bloody from repeat contact, "Dean!" I sobbed, holding my thumb into one of the monster's eyes. He roared in pain, finally giving me a chance to get a foothold and push him away. I reached for Dean's gun again, but the enormous man got his footing back and knocked the gun out of my hand before I had a chance to fire with my good hand.
I could hear a rustling; Dean was coming to. "Dean!" I screamed, "Dean!"
He stood up, shaking his head slightly, trying to come back into full awareness. "Stay the fuck away from her," Dean growled, taking Stalker's attention back away from me. I lunged for Dean's gun but, using the same stone he had hit Serendipity with, he swung his giant arm and the last thing I saw was the stone coming at my face.
The colossal man turned to Dean, who was circling around to stand in front of Grace. He glanced behind, "Gracie?" There was no answer. In the second that it took him to glance back, Stalker had picked up Dean's nine-millimeter and leveled it at Dean's chest. "Please man," Dean grunted, "please leave her be." The sirens were sedentary now; the police had begun the search for the woman that called 911 in the forest. "You hear that?" Dean was saying, stalling for time, backing up towards Grace, "Cops are here, man. Back away, disappear into the woods and I ain't gonna follow."
Stalker slowly shook his head, "She belongs with me," he grunted, "not with you."
Dean knew it was coming and it would hurt like hell, but wanted to take the bullet as much as he could for Grace. The gigantic man lowered the gun to Dean's shoulder height and fired. The sear of the bullet slid through Dean's clavicle, and he collapsed to his knees in front of Grace. As he hit the ground, he could hear the police, finally coming through the woods into the clearing. The monster turned, momentarily distracted and Dean lunged for the gun, pulling it from Stalker's hands and locking his jaw. It took everything in his power to hold the weapon up, waiting for the cops to take it from him, and not take the shot to the gigantic monster's head.
He could hear the shouting from the police, "Get on the ground! Get on the ground! Hands behind your head!" Dean stood as still as he could, doubling over in pain, blood pouring from his shoulder. Realization hit him and he turned, dropping to Grace's side in the dirt.
The police surrounded the scene, guns drawn; unsure on who was the victim and who was the suspect. Dean only had eyes for Grace. He searched her body for the bullet wound and blood pooled in the dirt near her side. "Grace!" he sobbed, the police taking the giant into custody, "baby, stay with me." Dean ripped off his outermost layer and pressed his flannel shirt into her stomach, where blood pulsed out of the small hole under her ribcage. "Grace!"
More police filled into the clearing, orders being shouted among the chaos. "She needs an ambulance!" Dean shouted, his voice breaking, "please! Get an ambulance!"
Shouting from police in the forest took Dean's attention momentarily. Other emergency services crowded around Grace, beginning to treat her wounds. Dean looked up and evaluated the situation and from the look of things, the ogre was giving the cops a run for their money. Suddenly, he broke back into the clearing, heading right for Grace. Dean stood, and without another thought, he took the closest police officer's weapon right from her holster and fired four times in rapid succession into Stalker's head, dropping him in his tracks.
Police were shouting at Dean, though he barely heard them, his hands dropping to his sides, letting the gun fall to the dirt. Dean fell to his knees again, barely supporting his own body weight. He pulled himself towards Grace's unconscious form and held her hand as the EMTs worked on her.
"Not breathing!" one of them shouted. "Get a gurney; we need her out of here!"
"Grace?" Dean gasped, "Gracie, please." Cops surrounded Dean, holding him in place. "Self defense, man, let go. Grace?"
"Dean!" a voice from the crowd came over the police officers' voices, "Dean? Are you okay?"
"Sammy?" Dean answered from the ground, "Sam!"
There was a scuffle and a shout. "He's my brother!" came over the crowd. Sam pushed through the crowd and got to Dean, collapsing next to him, a giant bruise blossoming over Sam's face. A lump was over his eye and blood flowed freely from his nose. "Dean? Are you okay?"
"Sir? Both of you are going to need to come with us," a police officer approached Sam and offered his hand to help him up. "We need to ask you some questions."
"Where's Serra?" Sam asked, ignoring the cop with fear in his voice, "Serra!"
Dean saw the gurney come through the forest, ready to carry Grace to the ambulance. Sam ran to the edge of the clearing where Serra lay, still unconscious. "I need an EMT!"
A police officer ran to where Sam kneeled, "Get someone over here! We have another female, early twenties!"
"Serra!" Sam shouted, his hands searching her for a wound, "Serendipity!"
"She's knocked out, Sammy," Dean answered from the ground. "The troll hit her with the same stone he hit Grace with." He held his palm over the bullet wound in his shoulder. "Grace," he said, turning back to her, "Sam, help me get up. I have to get to Grace."
Sam ran back over to Dean. Realizing that Dean was bleeding, dread spread across Sam's face. "You've been shot, Dean! Hey!" Sam shouted again, "he's been shot!" The EMTs swarmed around Dean once Grace's gurney had been carried through the forest.
Dean was shaking his head. "No," he was saying, "take care of her. I'm fine." Dean slipped into unconsciousness and the EMTs loaded him onto his own gurney, taking him towards the ambulance. A police officer escorted him, handcuffing and unconscious Dean to the gurney.
From the waiting room of the hospital, Sam and Serra sat, silent, bandages across both of their faces and Sam's arm in a sling. The nurses had insisted on treating both of them before the police had begun their interrogations. The local police department had sent a couple of rookies to take their statements and Serra had tears in her eyes as the female officer read back the statements that Sam and Serra had provided.
Sam was nodding, agreeing that the statement was accurate and true. "Yes, he's been stalking the girls for months. We made a couple of police reports in the past year about him hanging around the house watching them."
The police officer nodded and offered her condolences. Choosing to remain silent, Serra only nodded. Sam wrapped his good arm around her, kissing her forehead and taking a ragged breath. Grace and Dean were both still in surgery, being treated for their gunshot wounds.
Over an hour passed before a nurse came out to update them. "Mr. Winchester?" she said, holding a clipboard. Sam stood and nodded. "Your brother is out of surgery and stable. He's insisting to be signed out, but we really need to monitor his wounds for the next few hours. Will you come and talk to him, please?"
Sam sighed and glanced at Serra. "Yeah, of course." He turned to address Serendipity, "Do you want to come with me?"
She shook her head, looking up at him with tears in her eyes. "Grace," she said simply.
"Do you have any news on her sister?" Sam said, looking back towards the nurse. "Grace Browning? She went into surgery over an hour ago."
The nurse looked down at her clipboard and shook her head, "No, I'm sorry. I'll go find out after I walk you to your brother."
She turned, heading back to the hall when the doors burst open and Dean came tumbling through them, pulling an IV drip line behind him. His arm was wrapped in a sling as well, his head was bandaged and he was wearing a hospital robe. "Sir!" the nurse shouted, "you needed to stay in that room! You're not even completely out of anesthesia."
Sam approached, catching Dean with his good arm as he stumbled through the doorway. "No," he slurred, "I wanna see Grace."
Serra stood, approaching Dean. "She's not out of surgery yet. We're still waiting," she replied quietly. Dean was shaking his head, tears forming in his eyes. "Dean, you need to go back to bed—you're not even completely awake yet."
Turning him, Sam attempted to lead Dean back through the hall doors. Dean spun out of his grip, his hospital robe flapping comically, as he used the IV rack as support. "No. Staying. I'm at least…staying until she gets out of surgery."
Sam glanced at the nurse for permission. "Please?"
She sighed, obviously unhappy with the decision, but nodded her permission anyway. She turned back to the swinging doors and over her shoulder, she said, "I'll get you some pants."
Dean fell into one of the waiting room chairs behind him, rubbing his face and gasping for air. "How long had she been in surgery?"
Serra sat down next to the elder Winchester and sighed. "Over an hour."
Shaking her head, Serra's eyes filled with tears again. "Not since they admitted her," she answered.
Sam sat across from Dean and Serra, reaching for Serra's hand. Addressing Dean, Sam asked, "Have the cops talked to you yet?"
Dean nodded, trying to find a comfortable position for his arm and broken ribs. "Yeah, in the ambulance. They handcuffed me to the gurney on the way over, drilling me on shooting the ogre." He looked down, absentmindedly scratching at the stitches in his hand. "I killed him," he said quietly.
"Because you had to," Sam defended him. "You let him live long enough to prove he wasn't going to stop. It was necessary, Dean. You're no monster."
Dean agreed, "That's what 5-0 said, too." He smiled lightly, "I think this is the first time that they've been on our side."
The main doors of the hospital opened automatically, letting Castiel through the doors. "I have been looking everywhere for you."
"Cas," Sam breathed, getting up to greet his friend, "I'm sorry, man, we forgot to call you."
Castiel glanced around the waiting room, taking in the damage. Dean was obviously in the worst shape. He was slumped in the chair next to Serra, being held up only by the seat back and his IV rack. Castiel walked to Dean, extended his first two fingers on his right hand and made the move to touch Dean's forehead. "No, Cas," Dean said dipping his head away from Castiel's fingers, "Save your Jedi tricks for Grace. She's still in surgery."
"Tell me," Cas said, sitting in the chair opposite Dean, his posture still very erect, waiting for details about the attack.
Dean rolled his head back and forth on the seat back, closing his eyes as a tear seeped out from under his eyelids. "Went down just like you told us it would. That giant bastard was driving the tow truck we called when the Chevelle broke down." Dean took a ragged breath, "Oh, shit, the Chevelle," he said, lifting his head, remembering that the rebuilt muscle car still sat on the side of the road, abandoned when they were all taken to the hospital.
Sam shook he head, "The cops towed it to the repo yard. Said we could get it in the morning." Dean lay his head back down on the seat back, happy that she wasn't still on the side of the road. Sam turned back to Castiel, telling him the details of the evening. Castiel listened intently, eyebrows knitting together, concern washing over his face.
"And Grace?" Castiel asked when Sam had finished, "Have you heard?"
All three shook their heads in response; Dean's head still leaning on the seat back against the wall. Minutes passed in anxious silence.
The hall doors of the hospital opened and the same nurse from before came out, all business, heading towards the group. She handed Dean a pair of sweats and stood back, addressing Serendipity, "Ms. Browning?"
Serra's face whipped up, her eyes red and worried. "Yeah?"
"Your sister is still in surgery. I spoke to the lead surgeon a few minutes ago and he told me that the bullet fragmented and he has only been successful in removing one of the pieces so far." The nurse hesitated, "I know it's hard to hear, but I wouldn't want to be lied to if she was my sister…" she took a breath, Serra coming to the edge of her seat. "It's not looking good. Grace is bleeding internally and the doctors are having a hard time slowing it down."
Serra let out a sob of air. Sam stood and wrapped his arm around her, trying to help her hold it together. Dean stared forward, his face blank, listening to the nurse as she continued. "Grace will need blood, so we're bringing it in from Topeka Medical, but if you're a match, we're going to need you as well." Castiel stood and walked towards the doors of the hall, not waiting for permission or acknowledgment. He pushed the doors of the hall open and the nurse realized what was happening and shouted at him, "Sir! You're not allowed back there!" She turned to run after Cas, "Sir!"
Sam stood, wondering if he should move to assist either one, but there was a scuffle and Cas reappeared through the doors, two armed Security officers carrying Castiel out of the hall. He was unceremoniously dumped into a chair near Dean, who had his eyes closed, and was warned to stay out of the unauthorized area.
"If I can't touch Grace, how am I supposed to heal her?" Castiel asked, facing the Winchester boys.
Sam was shaking his head, "Cas, you're not strong enough to heal her yet," he said, "You're on borrowed grace as it is."
Dean struggled with nodding, but he agreed anyway. "He's right, man. You're not strong enough."
Castiel turned to stare at Serendipity, waiting for her response. "Castiel, please. I don't want anyone else hurt," she said, her face in her hands. "If the boys say you're not strong enough yet, you're not. I don't want anyone else to suffer."
"I'm useless here, then," Cas said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "This waiting room makes me uncomfortable. I need to be doing something if I am unable to heal Grace."
Sam pulled the keys of the Chevelle out from his pocket and tossed them to Cas. "Here, if you want something to do, you can go pick up Grace's car."
Castiel caught the keys and nodded. "Yes, I'll do that," he said, glancing down at Dean, "I haven't seen it since you painted it. What color am I looking for?"
"Purple," Dean muttered, his head leaning on the wall with his eyes closed. "Deep purple. Like the band." Dean took a shaky breath as another tear fell from his cheek. "Be careful with those keys. Don't lose them. The car's in the police department's repo yard."
Castiel nodded again and without another word, he turned and walked out of the doors, his trench coat flowing behind him.
Hours passed. Serra had given two pints of blood so far, an IV needle taped to her arm, ready to hook the tiny hose up again if need be. The nurses had moved the group to Dean's hospital room; he had finally relented and allowed himself to be put back in the hospital bed, the monitors beeped and clicked occasionally, keeping track of his vitals as he lay awake. Serra was stretched out on the cot next to Dean and Sammy was asleep in the recliner across the room. Castiel hadn't been back, but the Winchesters were right in saying that he wasn't strong enough to heal someone as damaged as Grace was, so he made himself busy at the house being domestic; cleaning the bedrooms and doing the dishes while he waited for news.
The door to Dean's room opened quietly, the same nurse as before knocking once as she entered the room. Sam sat up, coming out of his nap and wiping the sleep from his eyes. Serra stirred as well, turning her head to look up at the nurse. "Erin?" Serra addressed the nurse, "is she out of surgery?"
The nurse nodded, smiling lightly. "She's not out of the woods, but they got the second fragment and slowed the bleeding." Dean's eyes opened, relishing in the good news. Erin continued, "We're going to need another pint of blood in the next few hours, though, so we need you to eat."
Sam turned to Serra and offered her the peanut butter sandwich that he had been trying to make her eat for the last two hours. "See? I told you."
She reached for the sandwich and thanked the nurse for her update. "Can we see her?" Serra asked, mouth full of peanut butter, "Has she woken up?"
Erin shook her head, apologetic. "No, we're keeping her in a medically-induced coma to keep her heart rate down. You'll be allowed to see her in the morning." Serra and Sam thanked her and she disappeared through the hospital room door again.
Dean never moved or said a word. He closed his eyes again, the pain checking in from his shoulder and his ribs. Denying any pain medication, Dean had told the doctors that until he had heard about Grace's progress, he didn't want to sleep deeply. He took a soft breath, rolling slightly away from Serra and Sam. Dean had been miserable since he had gotten the sweat pants from Erin the nurse because guilt gripped him so tightly and he could barely breathe. Grace was knocking on death's door and it was all because he wasn't strong enough to keep her safe.
The only good news that Dean could think of is that he had remained in control of The Mark during the fight. Grace was the focus point; with her around, he had a reason to stay in the correct presence of mind. Grace was the only thing that mattered to Dean anymore, and lying in this hospital bed was doing nothing to help her. The waiting was killing him.
"Dean?" Sam asked gently, "how you doin'?"
"I'm fine, Sammy," came Dean's voice from over his shoulder, "I'm just worried about Grace."
Serra sat up, slowly, grimacing in pain. Sam helped her to the recliner and handed her a cup of coffee. "We all are, Dean," Serendipity said, taking another bite of her sandwich. "You can't blame yourself. We all fought back…you almost died."
Dean nodded slightly, closing his eyes again. Sam and Serra spoke quietly behind him and the last thought he had before drifting off into sleep was of Grace's face.
A knock on the door jolted Dean awake. He sat up quickly, his IV cart rocking slightly as his arm pulled the tubes taught. "Sorry," Erin the nurse said, "how are you feeling?" she said as he relaxed and laid back down.
Everything hurt. There were bruises all over his body and his broken ribs made it hard to breathe. The gunshot wound through his shoulder was throbbing in pain, waves of tenderness pulsing down his arm and up his neck. He shoved the pain away, though, knowing that Grace was in much more pain than he was.
Serra and Sam were gone and Dean had been napping on and off for the last few hours. Erin checked his vitals and his IV bag. She smiled at him, checking his bandages, "Your wife is stabilizing," she was saying, "her sister gave another pint of blood about twenty minutes ago, and that seems to have helped."
Dean smiled lightly. "She's not my wife," he said. "We've been together about a year."
Erin smiled back, apologetic. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to rush you," she teased. "But I mean, no one is getting any younger. And after a rescue like that," she raised her eyebrows, "she's never going to want to let you go."
Dean chuckled, holding his side painfully. "I don't know. I might not be the marrying kind."
Erin busied herself with tidying up the room and changing Dean's IV bag. She glanced back at Dean, attempting to prop himself up on the pillows behind him, "I know that you love her. So why not?"
Pressing his lips together, Dean sighed. He raised his eyebrows and tilted his head. "I don't have a good answer."
"So, when we bring her out of her coma, you marry that girl."
Dean smiled; his dimple showing on one side. "Can I see her yet?"
Erin glanced at the clock behind her. It was a little past five in the morning. "I'm not supposed to let you, but it's in-between shifts right now." She grinned mischievously. "Come on, you can see her for a few minutes until I'm off the clock."
Moving slowly, Dean swung his legs down from the bed and waited for Erin to unplug his machines, and then he followed her, barefoot on the cold hospital room floor. He retied his terry cloth robe and grabbed the IV cart, pulling the bandages that wrapped around his chest back into position.
Grace's ICU room was a floor up from Dean's, so Erin led him into the elevator, his IV cart getting caught in the space between the wall and the elevator door. Only having the use of one arm, he struggled getting it free. "Don't worry," Erin was saying, "you'll probably get discharged when first shift shows up. You won't have to drag that around anymore after this."
Dean followed Erin to Grace's room and she pushed the door open for him. Grace lay on a hospital bed, IVs hanging all around her, machines beeping with her heart rate and brain waves. She had a breathing tube, her chest rising and falling with each burst of oxygen that the machine pushed into her.
"She's not breathing on her own?" Dean asked, glancing back at the nurse.
Erin shook her head. "Not yet," she said sadly, "but she should be soon. From the look of this," she paused to gaze at the readings coming from the machine, "she's stabilizing more every hour. She should be brought out of the coma soon, and then she'll be breathing on her own."
Dean moved towards Grace slowly, his teeth pressed together, full of emotion. Grace was a grayish hue, her face sullen and thin. Her lips were chapped and her fingers were black and blue, scabs beginning to form on her knuckles from the fight. Without glancing back towards Erin, Dean asked, "What was the final damage?"
Erin walked to the end of Grace's bed, pulling her charts. She flipped through, reading quietly for a moment. "Gunshot wound to the upper abdomen, two fractured ribs, fractured skull and broken radius and ulna." She flipped the chart down, looking back up at Dean, "the gunshot wound is where all the trouble is coming from. The bleeding was out of control, that's what the surgeons were fighting against…she was bleeding out on the table."
Taking a ragged breath, Dean approached Grace, reaching for her hand. He noticed that she didn't have a cast on either wrist, so he hesitated in taking her hand. "Which wrist is broken?" Erin flipped through the chart again, but before she found the answer, Dean remembered Cas saying that it was her left wrist in the vision Grace had in the kitchen. He tilted his head. Grace's left hand was swollen and bruised, more so than her right. Erin still hadn't said either way, but Dean muttered under his breath, "her left."
Erin nodded. "Yeah, you're right. It's her left."
Dean reached for Grace's right hand. Out of habit, he waited his customary three seconds before reaching down and kissing her forehead. "I'm so sorry, Gracie."
Erin backed away from the hospital bed, smiling. "I'll leave you lovebirds alone for a bit," she said, "just watch her head. Her charts say that the skull fracture pattern is across the right side of her face."
Dean was horrified. He brushed the hair out of her face as gently as he could as he heard the door close gently behind him. He turned and pulled a chair from the other side of the room to sit near her, taking her right hand again as he got comfortable. Looking up at the machines that surrounded them, his eyes filled with tears again and he lost control. Tears fell from Dean's face and he made no effort to wipe them away, his entire body languishing in the pain that he had allowed Grace to feel. He leaned his head down, resting it on the only part of her right arm that wasn't covered in purple bruising. As he listened to the machines breathe for her, Dean began confessing aloud everything that he held in for the last eleven months.
"I should have said it sooner, Grace. I knew you could hear my thoughts, so I never felt any urgency saying it out loud." He gasped a breath and stared at her broken face, "I've loved you for so long, it never occurred to me that I might not be able to say it, and then when you had that goddammned vision…" he faded away, finally wiping his face with his robe sleeve. "Suddenly there was this unpredictable timeline, dictating our lives for us. I always felt like I was on the clock."
The machines continued to beep, and her ventilator continued to hiss. "I was still figuring out what I wanted, how I wanted to live my life after hunting. Rebuilding the Chevelle helped me realize that all I wanted was you. It rebuilt me. I don't care how I'll live the regular the day-to-day. I'll figure out what to do next. All that matters now is going home with you." He stared at her face and tried to smile, "You didn't even get a chance to notice what was on the key ring."
Dean hung his head, tears slowing, "It only counts if I say it out loud. I'm saying it out loud," he paused, taking a breath, "I love you, Grace."
From behind him, Sam's voice answered, "I don't think it counts if she's unconscious, either, Dean."
Wiping his face with his sleeve again, Dean turned a little too quickly. Pain spread through his chest and shoulder and he grimaced at his brother. "Jesus, Sam," he said, sighing, "can't a guy get a little privacy?"
"I didn't mean to interrupt, really," Sammy said, still holding the door. "I just came up here looking for you. The nurses are looking for you for your discharge paperwork."
Dean nodded, squeezing Grace's lifeless hand gently and getting up to follow Sam. All of a sudden, alarms went off, echoing through the tiny hospital room. The screens of the machines attached to Grace all turned red, the progress lines dipping low on the charts. "What the hell?" Dean backed away and yelled towards the door. "Help! Come help her!"
Sammy held the door wide open as nurses came running into the room, pushing Dean aside. They were shouting to each other. "BP 70 over 80 and falling!"
"Bring the paddles!"
"Pump the ventilator, flooding!"
Panic ripped through Dean as he backed towards Sam. They stood, as far out of the way as they could, both staring at the nurses working furiously on Grace.
"Strip it, need adrenaline!"
"Clear!" Grace's body arched as the defibrillator paddles sent a shock of electricity into her heart. The screens stayed red, the bars falling further into the scarlet strip at the bottom. The machines screamed their warnings…they were losing her.
Sam pulled Dean into the hall, moving further out of the way as a white-coated doctor ran into the room, two more nurses in her wake. The boys could hear them shouting still, fighting to save Grace's life. "Again! Clear!"
Struggling to stay on his feet, Dean put his good arm around Sam's shoulders, gasping as pain radiated through his ribcage. He sobbed as Sam dragged him away, "She's strong, Dean. She's fighting. She heard you."
Dean fell deeper into terror and turned to Sam. "Give me your phone," he growled.
Sam reached into his pocket, bringing out his phone and handing it to Dean. "Who are you calling?"
Not answering Sam, Dean listened as the other end picked up. "Get here. Now."
He slammed the phone back into Sam's chest and turned to sit in the chair outside of Grace's room. The commotion hadn't quieted yet, but the screaming of Grace's machines had ebbed. The doctor and nurses still moved quickly, darting in and out of the room. One of the nurses came out to the boys and took the rubber gloves off as she looked up at Dean. "That's the second time her heart has stopped," she said, breathing heavily. "They're prepping her for surgery," she was explaining as Dean's eyebrows furrowed. "Apparently, she is still bleeding internally."
Shaking his head, Dean responded, "Erin said she was stabilizing."
The other nurse shrugged. "She was," she said, "but something changed. Her blood pressure has dropped dramatically. We need to find the leak." She turned and held the door open, waiting for the doctor to come out. "She'll be in surgery in about five minutes."
Sam and Dean exchanged looks. Dean reached for Sam's watch, checking the time. The nurse walked back into Grace's room and under his breath, he muttered, "Get here faster."
"Who did you call?" Sam repeated quietly, sitting down next to Dean who avoided his gaze. "You called Cas?"
Dean looked down the hall, waiting. "I had to, Sam. She can't die." He let his head fall into his free hand. "I can't let her die."
Lowering his voice, Sam turned towards Dean. "You can't ask him to heal her, Dean," he said, staring at his brother. "He's on borrowed grace as it is. We don't know how much this will take out of him."
"I know how much it's taking out of her," Dean whispered, angry. "We can figure out how to fix Cas," he continued, "there's no other way to fix Grace. I can't—" he took a furious, ragged breath, "you can't ask me to face losing her."
There were footsteps down the end of the hallway. Both boys looked up and could see the brown trench coat swinging behind Castiel. "That was fast," Sam said, looking down at his watch. "Was he already here?"
"I don't care," Dean answered, standing to greet Cas. Realizing that Serendipity was not present, Dean turned to his brother and glanced up. "Where's Serra?"
"I told her to get some sleep," he answered, not looking at his brother. "She's downstairs in your room. At least she doesn't have to go through this."
Castiel reached the brothers. He nodded his greeting and moved to walk into Grace's room. "Cas," Dean started, his voice cracking with emotion, "don't go all the way. Save your strength. Just…just get her out of danger."
"I'll do what I have to," Castiel answered. He pushed his way through Grace's hospital room door and joined the fray of nurses that milled around the room.
"You're going to need to leave, sir," a nurse said, seeing Castiel walk in. "She's about to head in to surgery."
Castiel's voice came over the commotion, "I just need a few seconds with her," he said, moving to Grace's side, opposite the machines. Cas glanced up at the screens, still blinking yellow warnings. He gazed down at her and the ventilator and, very gently, touched two fingers to her bruised forehead. It happened very quickly, the nurses continued prepping Grace for surgery, so the flash of light went unnoticed. Castiel broke contact after only four seconds or so, gasping, he removed his fingers from her forehead and backed away.
Grace's machines lit up, almost immediately, with a green glow. The now-happy beeps of her heartbeat slowed and normalized, her blood pressure rose slowly and, regaining consciousness, Grace began gagging on the ventilator.
Castiel backed away, the lead nurse noticing that she was awake. "Oh my God, honey!" She rushed to Grace's side, pulling the ventilator out of Grace's throat, "how in the heavens?" She glanced up at the screens, yelling to the doctor. "She's regaining consciousness, Dr. Greene," she was saying, the doctor immediately turning to her patient, "BP is stabilizing. Heart rate is slowing…she's coming out of arrest."
Dr. Greene stared at her patient as her blue eyes adjusted, bloodshot from the beating she took yesterday evening. "Sweetie, can you hear me? Grace?" Grace gagged and coughed, struggling for breath. Castiel stood in the doorway, using the frame to support his weight. She nodded ever so slightly, wincing in pain at the movement. Dr. Greene continued, "Well, honey, you must have angels watching over you. You were about ten steps from those pearly gates."
I struggled to focus at the people in the room. The pain shooting through my head was almost unbearable. I still was gagging from the tube that had been jammed down my throat and I fought to take a deep breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Castiel standing against the doorframe. Finally, I was able to answer in a rough voice, "I do."
Cas slipped out of the room, leaving me with my caregivers. Everything on my body hurt. It hurt to move, it hurt to breathe. Even my eyelids hurt to blink. My first thoughts were of Serra and Dean. Were they okay? Did Stalker hurt them after I was shot? Where were they?
Nurses and Dr. Greene circled around me, taking vitals and checking my stitches. They were ripping off bandages and sticking me full of needles and new IVs. Dr. Greene clicked a drip line into my IV in my hand and the nurse on the other side of my bed adjusted my blood pressure monitor on my finger. I wanted to ask questions, my mind was full of them, but with all of the physical contact I was getting from the hospital staff, my brain kept flashing with other peoples' memories.
I gave up and lay my head back on the pillows. My head hurt too much to care at the moment.
"She's stable." Castiel stumbled towards Sam, who caught him and set him in the seat next to Dean. "I stopped the bleeding and healed the artery hole."
"Thank you, Cas," Dean breathed, hanging his head, "thank you."
Sam reached for Castiel, concern etched into his forehead. "Are you okay, Cas?"
Castiel nodded, wiping the wisps of bangs out of his eyes. "It was easier than I anticipated," he explained, as he brushed his forehead with his hand. "Either she was easier to fix than I thought she would be or she wasn't as damaged as I worried she was." Dean and Sam exchanged confused glances.
"Easier than you thought?" Dean asked, his voice still hoarse. "What does that mean?"
Cas shook his head, "I'm not sure," he said. "I feel that Grace had begun to heal herself, though I'm not entirely sure how." He paused, tilting his head, "It's very confusing, but a new priority is figuring out how to get all of my grace back," Castiel finished, closing his eyes.
Nodding, Sam agreed quietly. "Yeah," he said, "for sure. Next on the list."
Dean made the move to stand, pushing his IV stand out of the way. Frustrated, he pulled the IV needle out of his hand, pulling the medical tape off, and pushing the stand away. It rolled a few feet and Dean turned to walk back into Grace's room.
Her face was getting some of its color back, her cheeks filling with a rosy glow. Her eyes were still blood shot and her bruises still shined, bright purple against her alabaster skin. "Gracie?" Dean asked quietly, "Honey?"
Grace's eyes searched the room. She smiled, just barely, but it was there. Dean sighed in relief and leaned on the doorframe. She was out of the woods, so to speak, thanks to Cas, and her other wounds would heal. He started to piece together their future again, and from her bed, laying her head back down on the pillow behind her, she lifted one finger to wave at Dean.
I had been in recovery at the hospital for over two weeks. I was tired of being in bed, but it still hurt to move. The hospital staff was friendly, always making sure that I had what I needed and that Dean could come and go as he pleased. We spent our first year anniversary sitting in my hospital bed together, Dean holding my unbroken hand, helping me eat a piece of cherry pie, a la mode.
"This pie isn't in its pure form," I said, taking another bite.
Dean shrugged. "I've learned to make sacrifices," he answered, not looking up. "Isn't that part of a healthy relationship?" He took another bite of the pie on my lap and grinned at me. "It ain't bad with the ice cream."
I watched him closely. He was still bruised and beaten from our fight with my stalker. His stitches were removed yesterday from his bullet wound in his shoulder, and he still moved gingerly when he sat or stood. We had matching casts on our arms; the doctors had realized that his humerus was fractured earlier that week when the pain just wasn't going away in his arm. Dean seemed uncomfortable, but I had a feeling it had little to do with the pain he was experiencing.
"What's up, Dean?" I finally asked, when the silence turned uncomfortable. When he glanced at me, his eyebrows up and he didn't act confused, I could tell there was something big he wasn't saying. He was also keeping it silent in his head. We had been practicing my mind reading abilities over the last couple of weeks while I was laid up in bed and I had gotten pretty good at it, but his mind was blank.
He adjusted his position on the bed and glanced behind him. I knew that Serra and Sam were in the cafeteria, having lunch, allowing us some quiet time to celebrate our anniversary. They wouldn't be coming by until this evening, when they had planned on bringing us burgers from our favorite diner. Dean was nervous and I couldn't fathom why.
"While you were unconscious, I had a pretty interesting conversation with Erin," he began, adjusting his position again, trying his best to keep calm.
"The nurse?" I asked, confused. I hadn't seen Erin since they moved me out of ICU and into recovery. "About what?"
Dean tilted his head and furrowed his eyebrows, searching for words. "You kept saying that it didn't count until I said it out loud," he began, pulling at his shirt and running a hand through his hair. "I told you while you were sleeping, but Sam said it didn't count because you were unconscious."
I nodded, agreeing with Sam.
Dean's green eyes moved to lock with mine. I held my breath, worried that if I moved, I might miss the most important thing that Dean had ever said to me, out loud. He took a deep breath and smiled slightly, "You know I'm in love with you, Gracie. I love you more than anything, but I know you know. You can hear me. I don't have any secrets any more." I smiled at him, my eyes filling with tears. "But what you don't know," he said, taking a shaky breath and standing to kneel next to the bed, "is that I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
A tear fell down my cheek and I brushed it away, wincing at touching my cheek. I gasped, trying to control myself from becoming a complete emotional disaster. "Dean," I whispered, "I love you, too."
Struggling with his pocket and only one hand, he pulled out a tiny box. He held it out to me, a jingle coming from inside. I was confused, but continued to smile like an idiot, and reached out with my good arm to open the box. There, sitting on a little velvet pillow, was the Chevelle's key ring, shining in the fluorescent lights. I tilted my head, looking closer. The Chevelle's keys were on the key ring, but there, attached to the keys, was a sparkling band of tiny diamonds. More tears fell from my eyes and I was unable to move, or to take the keys from the box. Dean lowered the box, taking the key ring with his cast arm and gingerly, he spun the key ring in his hands to take the diamond band from the keys.
It was antique, I could tell by the shape of the shank. It was beautiful and dainty. Dean held it up to me, using his good arm to extend it towards me. "Erin told me that once you were out of the woods, I needed to marry you." I giggled, sobbing, trying my hardest to wipe the tears from my eyes so that I could see. "I tried to argue with her, saying I wasn't the marrying kind."
He did his best to reach for my hand. Dropping the keys, he succeeded, uncurling my bruised and battered hand to slip the ring on my finger. "The more I thought about, the more sense it made, because you would be mine, and I'd be yours. We'd finally be whole. And what Erin didn't know," he said, smiling slightly, "is that I've had this since I finished the Chevelle." I laughed then, knowing it was true, knowing that he had a plan from the beginning and the attack got in the way, "Grace," he continued, "let me love you for as long as I live. Please," he said, "please be my wife."
Still nodding, I was laughing, then, crying and laughing as he stood to kiss me. I grinned up at him as he hugged me and said, "Well, yeah, you idiot. Of course I will."
After I was discharged from the hospital, Dean brought my Chevelle around to the front of the hospital to pick me up. She was just as beautiful as she was the day he gave her to me, her deep purple paint sparkling in the sun. I looked down at my hand, the tiny diamond band glistening too, reminding me, that for the first time in my life, I was as safe and as happy as I ever could be. I never thought I would feel safe again, after Dad and Emery died, but here I was with my sister and my new family, and I knew we would be okay. Dean opened the door for me and Serra pulled the seat back so she and Sam could climb in. Dean pushed the seat back into place and he helped me as I gently got into my car.
Coming around to the driver's side, Dean slipped in, his cast bumping the steering wheel as he sat down. He reached for the stereo and turned up the volume. AC/DC came over the radio, a chorus of "You Shook Me All Night Long" echoing through the parking lot as Dean peeled rubber down the driveway.
Dean held the steering wheel with his cast arm and reached across the seat to hold my hand as we sped away. I closed my eyes, grinning, watching the flashes of our future run through my head, as the wind whipped my hair from its braid and we headed towards the highway together.